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From the field

By Chris Van Hook, cleangreencert.com

Stability is needed in any agricultural development and medical cannabis is no different. The 2011 actions of the US Attorney’s office have thrown the medical cannabis community into troubled times.

Likewise, the weather has continued to be difficult for the outdoor crop in large portions of the state. Many areas were already having a difficult time recovering from the late rains and cooler weather of the spring.

The slow plants seemed to catch up again during the warm summer months. Many plants were smaller then usual, but it looked as if the flowers would mature fully. Late summer rains and moist conditions in much of the state this fall could not have come at a worse time. Powdery mildews, molds and wind-broken branches presented serious problems as farmers struggled to decide whether to harvest early or to wait for the crop to mature fully.

Those who aggressively pruned and thinned their plants seemed to do better in controlling the mildew, as air passes more easily through thinned plants and helps to dry the leaves and buds. Many farmers were in the fields cutting mold-bearing sections out of their plants, hoping to save the remainder, and this technique showed good results.

The year’s unusual weather patterns made processing the harvested crop unusually difficult. Drying areas placed in uninsulated sheds, under trees or in tents — normally safe during a dry year — allowed some molds to grow and contaminate otherwise clean plants. Growers who had insulated drying rooms where moisture could be removed and temperature controlled had better results. Product must be properly dried prior to long-term storage, with all  portions showing signs of mold or mildew removed. Higher reimbursement values may be in order this year, given the difficulties of the season and the smaller yields.

Seed exchanges have been a mainstay of farming for centuries — seeds are exchanged among farmers, with or without reimbursement. This has helped keep heirloom crop seed available even as the use of corporate-owned and licensed seed increases.

One farmer has begun a potential game- changer for cannabis seed exchanges: he makes his seed available still in the flower. The seed is delivered on a small branch with a couple of flowers, the seed still intact and protected within the flowers. Freshness is thus guaranteed, and the farmer can see and try the specimen.

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