Many abiotic factors impact the yield and growth of Cannabis sativa (cannabis). Cannabis has been reported to be a bio-accumulator of heavy metals. For growers who are targeting floral production and other byproducts for human consumption, this is a concern. Silicon (Si) has been examined as a beneficial plant element to limit the uptake of heavy metals in a variety of crops. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of Si on heavy metal micronutrient uptake and plant growth for greenhouse-cultivated cannabis at varying Si substrate amendments. ‘Auto CBG’ plants were grown in a 70:30 peat:perlite substrate with one of three varying calcium silicate (CaSiO3) (Si) substrate amendment rates, Si0X, Si0.5X, or Si1X (of 0.0, 1.04, and 2.07 kg⋅m−3 CaSiO3), and one of three micronutrient fertility treatments, M1X [0.49 boron (B), 0.19 copper (Cu), 4.02 iron (Fe), 0.99 manganese (Mn), 0.01 molybdenum (Mo), and 0.20 zinc (Zn) mg⋅L−1], M2X, or M4X, using a modified Hoagland’s solution, creating a 3 × 3 factorial. Plants grown with a Si1X substrate amendment exhibited a significantly lower iron concentration in the foliage and root tissue when compared with those grown in a substrate without Si. After 6 weeks of growth, Si0X plants that received a M4X fertility rate exhibited greater foliar micronutrient concentrations of B, Mn, Zn, Fe, and Cu than plants that received a Si substrate amendment when provided a M4X fertility rate. Additionally, lower micronutrient concentrations in floral tissue were observed in plants that received a Si substrate amendment for M2X and M4X when compared with plants that did not. Silicon substrate amendments had no impact on the cannabinoid concentration or plant growth metrics after 12 weeks of growth. This research suggests that using a Si substrate amendment in a greenhouse production system can limit excessive uptake and accumulation of micronutrients in the foliage, roots, and floral material of cannabis without negative impacts on plant growth or cannabinoid concentrations.
Growers have been searching for alternative horticultural growing media components because of their desire to use sustainable resources. Biochar is a carbon-based material that has been evaluated for use as an alternative aggregate in peat-based soilless substrates. Additionally, silicon (Si) has been examined as a beneficial element to promote plant growth and plant quality in a variety of crops. However, there has been limited research regarding the interaction of biochar as an aggregate and Si in soilless substrates. This study aimed to determine the impact of Si and biochar on plant growth and nutrient uptake for greenhouse-cultivated hemp (Cannabis sativa L.). Hemp plants were grown in one of 12 different substrate blends: with two rates of calcium silicate (CaSiO3), two aggregate types of biochar (medium or coarse) or perlite, and aggregate percentages of 85% peat + 15% aggregate and 70% peat + 30% aggregate. The cannabinoid concentration, plant height, diameter, or total plant biomass were similar across all substrate blends after 12 weeks of growth. Additionally, the use of CaSiO3 as a Si substrate amendment increased Si foliar concentrations, and the addition of biochar to peat-based mixes did not limit the Si availability for plant uptake. However, Si substrate amendments did not impact plant height, diameter, or total plant biomass. This suggests that the biochar tested during this study is suitable in peat-based substrates for C. sativa ‘BaOx’ production at rates up to 30% (by volume) in peat-based substrates with CaSiO3 amendments.