“We are very excited to be growing at a moment when the industry is really coming into itself, and it’s a great feeling to know that our hard work results in medicine for people that really need it,” says Madalyn Ouwerkerk, Cultivation Leading Hand at Cannatrek’s Queensland facility. The Australian company specializes in the research, cultivation, manufacturing, and delivery of medical cannabis. At the 2021 Australian Cannabis Summit, they presented a video where they gave a tour around their growing facility, where they run a perpetual harvest all year round. Ouwerkerk discusses their growing process from propagation to flowering, as well as the importance of IPM. See the LinkedIn post below to watch the whole video
There are four greenhouses at the facility, which cover the different stages of the plant’s life: propagation, vegetation, and flowering. It all begins in greenhouse 2, which is where the mother stock is kept. “This greenhouse contains all the genetics that we use to take cuttings from to grow our commercial batches in the flowering greenhouses. The mother plants stay in the vegetative light cycle, meaning that they get 18 hours of light per day. This keeps them growing leaves and shoots and branches, but not any flowers yet.”
The plants that are in there now are the product of Cannatrek’s pheno-hunting. “Over the last year, we have been growing out different seeds, and then the mother plants that remain are the ones that have desirable attributes. We look at a lot of different aspects, such as the structure of the plant, the size, and density of the flower, but also the terpene profile and the potency.” Once the cuttings have been taken off the plants, they make their way to the propagation room, where they will spend a couple of weeks developing roots.
Once the roots are developed, the plants will be transplanted to the vegetation greenhouse, where they will spend another 2-4 weeks. “This is where the plants are transplanted into larger size coir blocks. As coir is a byproduct of the coconut industry and completely biodegradable, this is a very environmentally friendly product to use. The plants receive 18 hours of light per day which keeps them in a vegetative state. When they have grown to about 6-8 branches, we pinch the growth tip out of the plant. Instead of growing tall, this encourages lateral growth and bigger branches.”
The importance of light
Then the plants will be transferred to the flowering greenhouses, where the lighting is reduced from 18 to 12 hours a day. “We use a method known as scrogging, using layers of netting to manipulate the physical form of the plant and pull the branches out to the side. This allows some of the sub-lateral shoots to come out towards the light. In addition, we remove all the big leaves that are blocking the light. Light penetration into the plant and onto the bud is essential for the quality of the flowers.”
As the growers do not use any chemicals, they have a consistent IPM program. “Once a week, the whole crop is checked for bugs, and this determines what predators and parasites we will be releasing. Especially in the hotter months, things can go quickly when the insects are reproducing more quickly. Therefore, it is important to be acting from a preventative space, rather than a curative space. We use a variety of different parasites and predators, such as lacewings and californicus. This is a great method, as they are in there working day and night for us, hunting down the pests. We also have nematodes in the coir that consume any soil-dwelling organisms. Insects can develop a resistance towards chemicals, but they can’t develop a resistance to being eaten.”
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