Cannabis growers are always on the lookout for products or techniques that will enhance the potency of their crop. After all, the potency of cured cannabis affects both the product’s effectiveness as a medicine and its marketability.
When discussing potency, we are actually talking about the levels of cannabinoids found in a finished product. The two most sought after cannabinoids by cannabis growers are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These cannabinoids are found throughout the cannabis plant but are most concentrated in the essential oils found in and on the trichomes. Trichomes are the small, glandular, almost mushroom-like structures found on the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant.
The easiest way to get a potent cannabis crop is to choose plant varieties that naturally create an abundance of trichomes, a genetic trait that can give the flowers or leaves a whitish color.
Breeders can also use these plants and other varieties that naturally produce more THC and/or CBD to create potent hybrids. However, aside from picking the right genetic profile, there are a couple of ways growers can enhance the essential oil production and, in turn, ramp up the THC and/or CBD production of their cannabis plants.
To understand why ultraviolet (UV) light enhances the production of trichomes, you must first understand the main purpose of trichomes. Contrary to popular myth, the cannabis plant does not create trichomes, or THC, specifically for human consumption. Truth is that trichomes serve as a form of protection for the cannabis plant. In particular, they protect the plant from insects, molds, and UV light.
Like just about everything else on planet, cannabis plants are damaged by too much UV light. That’s why a cannabis plant will create more trichomes to protect itself if there is an increase in harmful UV-B rays. As such, supplementing UV-B light using UV-B fluorescents (commonly sold at pet stores for reptiles) in a flowering room can help boost trichome production. This trick is particularly useful to growers who exclusively use high pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs for flowering as that technology doesn’t produce much UV-B light. However, it is important to remember that the supplementary UV-B light is just that: a supplement. You don’t need a lot of it and too much can be counterproductive. One to two watts of UV-B light per square foot of garden space is efficient. Also, note that other commonly used lighting technologies, such as metal halide, already contain a good amount of UV-B light and do not need additional supplementation.
Another way cannabis growers can enhance their plants’ trichome production is with nutrient additives. Terpenoid enhancers trigger the plant’s natural defense system and cause the plant to create more essential oils. As there are many of these on the market, the best way to figure out which product works best for your plant variety is to experiment and test the results.
Another additive used by cannabis growers to enhance trichome production is silica (potassium silicate). Plants that receive silica have a stronger resistance to pathogens, and it is believed that silica boosts the physical hardiness and resilience of the cannabis flowers and trichomes. This makes the finished product more potent and less susceptible (even after harvest) to damage that could diminish its overall quality. In other words, some growers believe that cannabis flowers harvested from plants supplied with silica have a longer shelf life.
More and more, growers are striving for bountiful crops of high-quality buds as opposed to high quantities of mediocre cannabis—which is good news for both the medical and recreational cannabis industries. By using terpenoid enhancement products and/or supplementing UV-B light during the flowering stage of growth, cannabis growers can boost the trichome production of their plants and maximize the potency of their particular cannabis strain.
Using potassium silicate can also offer their plants a unique defense against pathogens and the possibility of higher potency for a longer period of time. It can take some trial and error to determine the exact products and techniques that will ramp up a strain’s trichome production, but it is worth the effort. After all, experimentation is how we discovered these tricks to boost cannabis potency in the first place; just imagine what practices we could develop if we keep trying.