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34


See us at the Ag Show! The best plow in the world.


COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • JANUARY 2018


Space program elevates pot research to a new high


With the federal


government committed to legalizing marijuana by July, people at every level of what hitherto has been an illegal


Research by MARGARET EVANS


Designed for In Furrow and On Land operations, the EO/LO are robust ploughs requiring lower lift requirements than other brands. The 300 heavy duty head stock provides the necessary strength for smooth reversing. The Kver- neland unique steels and the heat treatment of the complete plough guarantee the longevity.


grow industry are gearing up to find their niche spot in what could be a motherlode industry with a value tagged at a potential $23 billion. Canada will be the second


Designed for heavy conditions.


country to legalize the consumption and sale of recreational marijuana behind Uruguay which did so in 2014. Getting it right with all the laws, regulations, pricing and taxing structures in place won’t be easy. Getting it right also means growing consistent, quality-controlled plants for consumers, whether for medical reasons or enjoyment. Growing


The Kverneland NG-S 101 is a heavy duty power harrow for all kinds of operations in all types of soil conditions. Robustly de- signed with the Kverneland heavy-duty trough design and Quick-Fit tines this power harrow is the right alternative for large farms and farm contractors.


THE PROFESSIONAL SOLUTION.


marijuana has been the focus of research at the University of Guelph for several years and now a research team has published what is believed to be the first scientific paper in North America on improving medicinal cannabis plant production, helping to move the industry into the realm of high-tech labs and evidence- based practices. “We have an ongoing


The Kverneland Taarup 9578 C and 9584 C ProLine are designed for the toughest conditions and feature a high performance oil-bath gearbox and a strong carrier frame. The ability to make sharp turns up to 80° and the cross stabilizer in the headstock are unique Kverneland features.


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Van Der Wal Equipment (1989) Ltd. 23390 RIVER ROAD, MAPLE RIDGE, BC V2W 1B6 604/463-3681 | vanderwaleq.com


research contract and collaboration agreement with a licensed medical marijuana producer, ABcann Medicinals, in Napanee, Ontario,” says professor Mike Dixon, director of the university’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility. “They are hosting my three grad students in various aspects of advancing the technology of medical cannabis production.” The university is one of the


world’s top facilities for horticulture research and controlled environment plant production. With that expertise, the university is well positioned to train horticulturalists and licensed producers in what will surely be a rapidly expanding industry. The researchers focused on plant performance during the vegetative stage, determined the optimal amount of fertilizer and developed two soilless growing substrate recipes to produce high- yielding plants rich in cannabidiol and THC, the two primary medicinal


components. “You propagate the clones


in the vegetative stage for two to three weeks, then you have a bloom stage,” says Dixon. “There’s a production strategy and specifically what we are looking at is


the organic growing medium that is appropriate for these two different physiological stages of production – vegetative and bloom. They are grown in an organic substrate comprised of a number of different components. Then there is irrigation management.”


environment where a controlled environment is essential. In 2001, he and Canadian


astronaut Bob Thirsk started ‘Tomatosphere,’ a project in which tomato seeds were taken to the International Space Station to be subjected to a space environment, then returned to Earth where they were distributed to school children along with tomato seeds not exposed to space. The students grew the tomato seeds in blind studies making meticulous notes on each and reporting their findings to the project’s website to be shared with scientists studying horticulture and environmental biology. The award-winning program continues today and over three million students in Canada and the US have helped gather data for researchers. Dixon says that building on that controlled environment technology has improved techniques for growing


marijuana. “We are


The


study, which was funded in part by the


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, was recently published in the journal HortScience. It is the first in a series of studies at the University of Guelph investigating ideal horticultural practices for indoor cannabis production. A second paper examining fertilizer rates and growing substrate conditions for flowering plants will be published shortly in HortScience. The team is currently researching lighting and irrigation. “Controlling the light


spectrum provides the opportunity to standardize the concentration of cannabidiol, a chemical component in medical marijuana that appears to cause no intoxicating effects,” says Dixon.


Out-of-this-world Interestingly, their


controlled-environment plant production technology comes from Dixon’s involvement with biological life-support systems in space, including exposing seeds and growing food in a spacecraft


inundated with people who want us to advise them [on growing marijuana],” says


Dixon. “It is very expensive. But [the technology] is born from Canada’s contribution to international space exploration and biological life-support systems in space.” He said that the technology they have developed to grow plants in space are high-density modular production systems with LED lighting and very precise environmental control in which pathogen issues are minimized. “We’ve got a long list of what not to do in a high- density, controlled environment,” he says. “We have much better production technology because of the space program. What we do is Canada’s contribution to biological life-support in international space exploration and we lead the world in that niche field.” Dixon believes that the technology has the potential to be the most significant economic engine for Canada going into the future. And the technological spin-off for plant production in a high- density controlled environment will benefit the legal, budding industry of high-quality, high-yield marijuana.


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