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The cannabis industry is ever-evolving, going from being relegated in the shadows to taking center stage in medical, technological, and scientific research. Traditionally, cannabis cultivation thrived on farmers’ experience and wealth of knowledge- knowledge often passed down through generations. But with government forces actively regulating cannabis production and setting strict THC content limits, farmers can no longer rely solely on intuition, especially with predictive plant analysis revolutionizing the game.
So, they began to send their products to labs for testing. This invasive procedure means that the cannabis plants get cut down and then sent for an evaluation of their genetic and terpene profiles—a time-consuming process. And this has been the status quo for years. It appears, however, that the tides are about to turn in favor of farmers.
Imagine a world where cannabis growers enjoy accurate foresight to anticipate a plant’s genetic potential, gender, and cannabinoid and terpene profiles without cutting plants down or waiting endlessly on lab test results. The good news is that we no longer have to imagine it. The recently developed Predictive Analytical Modeling Application for Plants (PAMAP), a predictive analytical technique for cannabis plants, is poised to be a game-changer in the industry.
Understanding Predictive Plant Analysis
Predictive plant analysis is an innovative and data-driven way of studying plants and learning their traits, growth, and production patterns. It’s like being a plant whisperer or owning a crystal ball that has the potential to understand and predict the future of cannabis plants.
Predictive plant analysis is essential to cannabis farmers because it helps them make more informed decisions. Farmers lose thousands of hemp acreage yearly for going hot or due to an unexpected cross-pollination between males. More specifically, in 2019, data from New Frontier shows that the United States government destroyed 4,000 acres out of 243,000 acres of hemp acreage for going hot. Also, that same year in Arvin, California, law enforcement seized and destroyed about 10 million hemp plants. The figures did not improve in subsequent years, as in 2020 and 2021, tested hot hemp acreage was estimated to be 6,234 and 11,675 acres, respectively.
With predictive plant analysis, cannabis growers will no longer lose their hemp acreage to the hands of the law. Instead, they can utilize advanced technology to analyze their THC and CBD content, gender, genes, and how much they’ll yield when harvested.
Sexing Cannabis Plants: Importance & Challenges
Now, you might be wondering, “Do plants have sex?”. The simple answer is yes. Like humans, plants could be female or male, and sometimes hermaphrodites. Making an early distinction between their genders is key to a bountiful harvest.
There is a lot of talk about how to determine the gender of a hemp plant. Some say that the male cannabis plant, in its pre-flower stage, often takes the shape of a spade. Others say that male hemp plants bear thicker stalks and fewer leaves, while female plants produce pistils earlier. More recently, though, a co-founder of Mariposa Technology—the brand responsible for the Predictive Analytical Modeling Application for Plants (PAMAP) in an interview with Molecules, a peer-reviewed journal—has explained that the sex of cannabis plants lies in their level of carotenoids concentration. Female plants have the highest carotenoid content, hermaphrodites have the lowest, and male plants are in the middle.
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As already stated, determining the sex of a plant early is essential to production output. Female plants are often more prioritized than male ones because they are known to be the highest-quality cannabis. They are responsible for the resin-rich flowers often sought after by consumers. Male cannabis plants, on the other hand, are valuable during the reproductive process. The pollen they release fertilizes the female plants and leads to seed formation.
However, while seeds are essential for the genetic preservation of cannabis plants, they are unprofitable outside breeding. The more seeds produced by male cannabis plants, the more the female plants reproduce. This could diminish the high-grade cannabis produced for consumption as reproduction diverts female plant energy from resin production. Consequently, cannabis growers prefer to take out male plants promptly to enhance the yield of premium and economically viable buds.
Cannabis plants do not often reveal their sex early, which can be pretty challenging for farmers. While some exhibit their sex at early stages, others remain elusive until later stages of growth, like the pre-flowering or flowering phase. This often leaves farmers with little to no time to identify the male cannabis plants and remove them.
Identifying Hot Hemp: CBD vs. THC Dominance
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the most prominent cannabinoids in cannabis. While CBD is responsible for the medical and therapeutic benefits of cannabis, ranging from pain relief to treating anxiety-related disorders, THC is the psychoactive ingredient that is responsible for the euphoric effects of cannabis. The concentration level of each of these compounds is pivotal to cannabis production and sale.
In the United States, the Farm Bill 2018 has removed hemp containing less than 0.3% THC from the list of controlled substances. Essentially, hemp becomes “hot” when it passes the legal threshold, making it less desirable for medical and industrial purposes.
Conventionally, cannabis farmers identify the THC & CBD content in hemp by putting them through analytic techniques such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). However, these procedures are invasive and time-consuming. Before predictive plant analysis, farmers would have expended thousands of dollars and acres of land on cultivation and would be nearing harvest by the time the results are in – which often turns out to be unfavorable.
Predictive Analytical Modeling Application for Plants (PAMAP): Non-Destructive Analytical Technique
In recognition of the plight of cannabis growers and in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint in the cannabis industry, Mariposa Technology came up with a solution—the Predictive Analytical Modelling Application for Plants (PAMAP). It is a handheld device that utilizes Raman spectroscopy in carrying out digital and rapid in-field testing of the molecular composition of cannabis plants.
The device shines a laser light on a plant and analyzes the scattered light to determine the vibrational frequencies of component molecules. Predictive plant analysis will help farmers to identify the cannabinoids and terpene profiles of plants without damaging them. While the technology can only analyze cannabis products at the moment, it is a very start toward the future of predictive plant analysis. It spells good tidings for the agriculture industry at large.