By Gillian May, AROYA Contributor
Although different strains of cannabis have similar basic cultivation requirements, each strain varies in their growth patterns and output.
The two biggest "categories" (and there's debate as to how real these categories are) in cannabis are Indica and Sativa. What distinguishes them?
Indica plants (in general) grow faster than Sativa plants, and they tend to produce more buds. Sativa also grows taller and more slender than Indica (again, in general), and tends to have slightly higher THC levels. They also take a bit longer to mature. For these reasons, Sativa cannabis cultivation requires a specific type of care that, while similar to general cannabis guidelines, contains some important differences.
Let’s break down six crucial components for cultivating robust, consistently high-quality Sativa cannabis plants:
Sativa tends to need more warmth than Indica strains. You can more effectively monitor and control for temperature by growing indoors. It’s easier to customize the temperature in a controlled environment, unlike the outside where the weather and sun are unpredictable. Temperatures that are too high or low can shock the plant (although, in crop steering, this can be incredibly beneficial), decelerate growth, or decrease the THC content.
Soil conditions need to be well controlled for acidity (pH). Too much acidity can damage the plant and, as such, care needs to be taken in your fertigation solution, as it can change the acid level considerably. A pH that’s too basic will stunt growth. The ideal soil acidity or pH level would be between 5.8 and 6.5 or slightly alkaline. Sativa cannabis plants tend to grow taller with more nitrogen.
Cannabis must have access to high levels of light in order to achieve proper photosynthesis for optimal growth. In fact, they need more access to sufficient light levels than other plants, due to their high biosynthetic energy demand. This is why cannabis grows better in conditions that have longer amounts of daylight. Again, this can be achieved with more uniformity using indoor growth mediums, as well as stronger, longer lighting systems.
The amount and frequency of watering depend on light and warmth, as well as what phase of growth your plant is in (generative vs vegetative). With higher sun conditions (for outdoor growth), more water may be needed. However, too much water can suffocate the roots, invite more pests, and decrease beneficial bacteria. It’s best to allow the soil to dry sufficiently before adding more water (this is called a dry-back, and mastering this process is an essential element of effective crop steering). Automated drip irrigation systems can be beneficial for cannabis growth, as they can detect the perfect moment to add more water. Short of that, precision water content monitoring can keep you on top of when and how much to water your plants manually.
Sativa cannabis generally needs more nitrogen than potassium and phosphorus. Secondary and micronutrients are also required in lower doses. Care needs to be taken when fertilizing so as not to overdo any one nutrient, as this can shock the plant. Nutrients and fertilization can affect the yield, cannabinoid output, and THC content. The balance of plant nutrients and the timing of their application is essential in developing good nutrient regimes for Sativa, as well as all cannabis.
Humidity is measured relatively, to the amount of sunlight and warmth. Sativa plants need a humidity level in a range between 40-60%. This is often why it grows incredibly well on the American west coast in the Emerald Triangle. However, humidity can be controlled even better in indoor settings. Drier conditions are generally not good for cannabis plants, but for Sativa in particular, they can dry out leaves and slow the rate of photosynthesis.
To recap: Sativa (in general) needs slightly more warmth, as well as more and different levels of nutrients. Still, these cultivation variables are worth controlling for apply to all cannabis plants, and every strain (and grow environment!) is different.
Only by measuring with precision equipment and monitoring progress and conditions in real-time can give you the clearest picture of what’s working, what’s worked before, and what your pathway to ever-increasing yields and consistent quality will be.
(Photo by Kym MacKinnon on Unsplash)