Optimal Rate of Organic Fertilizer during the Vegetative-stage for Cannabis Grown in Two Coir-based Substrates

in HortScience

Cannabis producers, especially those with organic operations, lack reliable information on the fertilization requirements for their crops. To determine the optimal organic fertilizer rate for vegetative-stage cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.), five rates that supplied 117, 234, 351, 468, and 585 mg N/L of a liquid organic fertilizer (4.0N–1.3P–1.7K) were applied to container-grown plants with one of two coir-based organic substrates. The trial was conducted in a walk-in growth chamber and the two substrates used were ABcann UNIMIX 1-HP with lower water-holding capacity (WHC) and ABcann UNIMIX 1 with higher WHC. No differences in growth or floral dry weight (yield) were found between the two substrates. Pooled data from both substrates showed that the highest yield was achieved at a rate that supplied 389 mg N/L (interpolated from yield-fertilizer responses) which was 1.8 times higher than that of the lowest fertilizer rate. The concentration of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in dry floral material was maximized at a rate that supplied 418 mg N/L, and no fertilizer rate effects were observed on Δ9-tetrahydrocannabidiolic acid (THCA) or cannabinol (CBN). The highest yield, cannabinoid content, and plant growth were achieved around an organic fertilizer rate that supplied 389 mg N/L during the vegetative growth stage when using the two coir-based organic substrates.

Contributor Notes

We thank ABcann Medicinals Inc. for providing funding as well as materials, expertise, and ground-level support. We would also like to thank Millenniumsoils Coir and EZ-GRO Inc. for providing materials and technical support.

Corresponding author. E-mail: yzheng@uoguelph.ca.

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Figures

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    Response of cannabis growth attributes to organic fertilizer (4.0N–1.3P–1.7K) rate [indicated by nitrogen (N) concentration] applied during the vegetative stage. Values are means ± se and lines are the best fit regression relationships at P < 0.05. For days 5 and 13, n = 10; for day 19, n = 20 (vegetative stage; left); for days 45 and 63 (flowering stage; right) at rates that supplied 117, 234, and 468 mg N/L, n = 12; at rates that supplied 351 and 585 mg N/L, n = 11.

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    Response of cannabis yield to organic fertilizer (4.0N–1.3P–1.7K) rate [indicated by nitrogen (N) concentration] applied during the vegetative stage. Values are means ± se. The curve is the best fit regression relationship with P < 0.05 (n = 12 at rates that supplied 117, 234, and 468 mg N/L; n = 11 for rates that supplied 351 and 585 mg N/L).

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    Relationship between ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration in dry floral material of cannabis and organic fertilizer (4.0N–1.3P–1.7K) rate [indicated by nitrogen (N) concentration] applied during the vegetative stage. Values are means ± se. The curve is the best fit regression relationship with P < 0.05 (n = 3).

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    Relationships between cannabinoid concentrations in dry floral material of cannabis and dry floral weight. Values are means ± se (n = 15 for THCA and THC; n = 13 for CBN). Lines are the best fit regression relationships with P < 0.05. THCA = Δ9-tetrahydrocannabidiolic acid; THC = ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol; CBN = cannabinol.

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    Response of substrate pH and electrical conductivity to organic fertilizer (4.0N–1.3P–1.7K) rate [indicated by nitrogen (N) concentration] applied during the vegetative stage. Data are means ± se (n = 5 for pH at the 585 mg N/L rate on day 17 and n = 10 for all other means) and lines are the best fit regression relationships with P < 0.05.

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    Response of substrate pH during the flowering stage to organic fertilizer (4.0N–1.3P–1.7K) rate [indicated by nitrogen (N) concentration] applied during the vegetative stage. Data are means ± se (n = 8), and lines are the best fit regression relationships with P < 0.05.

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