Commercial cannabis cultivation
Cannabis humidity control is a major talking point among growers. In the modern era, cannabis is grown in completely controlled spaces. Greenhouses, as well as closed facilities are constantly monitored and adjusted. The aim is to maintain a consistent quality of product, while attempting to maximize yields. Though humidity is a big part of climate control, not all cannabis cultivators understand exactly how to control it.
The importance of humidity control in cannabis
Plants are picky, and though they may grow in a relatively wide array of conditions, they do have optimal points, maximizing their growth and quality potential. Just like temperature and lighting, plants feel humidity, causing them to adjust accordingly, in order to survive. The optimal conditions for each plant are based on a its evolutionary traits, genetics and origins.
Humidity is one of the leading factors affecting the nutrient cycle of a plant, as it affects the rate of water transpiration from the leaves. When humidity levels are high, transpiration slows down, causing the plant to take in less water from the roots, water which contains the nutrients it needs to grow.
It is important to understand what relative humidity is – the degree of saturation of water contained in the air. When relative humidity is at 100%, the air can’t contain any more water vapor, causing water to condense. This is a factor of both the amount of water vapor and the temperature. Colder air can contain less water than warmer air. So, relative humidity will rise either when the amount of water vapor is increased, or when temperatures drop. This causes condensation, water vapor manifesting itself as a liquid, to occur on the coldest surfaces in the environment. Most commonly being metal objects and infrastructure, such as pipes, railings and vents, as well the plants themselves, which tend to be cooler than the air surrounding them.
Humidity related diseases
Climate control is great for providing crops the with best opportunity to reach their maximum potential. But that’s not all. There are other living organisms lurking in a growing facility, and they too have preferred conditions. We’re talking bacteria, pests, and most importantly, in the case of cannabis, molds. The biggest culprit being Botrytis, commonly referred to as bud rot, a fungus which thrives in high relative humidity levels, and could potentially decimate an entire crop cycle, if left unchecked.
The first condition necessary for bud rot to appear in the growing space is free water. Even one small area being too humid or cold, could cause condensation and allow bud rot to appear. Once a single breakout occurs, the fungus creates spores, which can spread through the air, eventually reaching the entire growing space.
Controlling relative humidity is, in fact, controlling the outbreak of disease, with no need for pesticides and fungicides, leading to a cleaner crop, fit for medical consumption.
Cannabis’ humidity susceptibility
Cannabis is a special case when it comes to humidity, due to its unique physiology. The dense buds make it much harder for air to pass through, creating a high risk of humidity building up within them. These small pockets of humid air are caused by the transpiration which occurs, without an outlet. Being both cooler and moist, the bud is at extreme risk of condensation occurring inside it, which could potentially bring upon molds, rendering the bud unusable.
With condensation being a real risk, growers need to keep an eye on relative humidity levels, keeping them at a safe distance from saturation.
Humidity has always been a factor in agriculture, though mostly associated with temperature related issues. The effects of humidity have always been felt, but are only now gaining the attention they deserve. When it comes to growing cannabis, the methods of coping with humidity vary. The only commonality is the fact that dealing with humidity it is a necessity.
The most important parameter to consider when shopping for dehumidifiers is the efficiency, with the most straightforward way of being the ratio of water removal to energy consumption, or even better, water removal to cost ratio.
Cutting edge growing facilities
Bringing in new technologies to a growing facility holds the potential to provide additional benefits beyond their sole intended purpose. Bringing in a dehumidifier will obviously reduce humidity. But it may also cut energy costs by as much as 50%, when compared to traditional heat and vent methods. Refrigerant based units collect the water they remove from the air. This can potentially provide over 100 gallons of distilled water in a single night.
Another major factor to consider when introducing dehumidification, is how they integrate into the air movement scheme in the space. As an additional piece of equipment which takes in and expels air, it could be utilized to improve the air circulation. DryGair emphasizes this issue, and incorporates a unique design that circulates air in order to homogenize conditions throughout the facility. When bringing in any new technology, you can take advantage of the opportunity to expand on additional aspects.
Humidity control in cannabis increases economical viability
Growing cannabis, like any other business, is about the bottom line. The objective, or at least the basic condition of remaining in operation, is to be profitable. The cannabis market, still in its early stages, is changing rapidly. Some of these changes may soon bring about critical shifts to the economic viability of cannabis cultivation.
The major factor justifying the cost of cannabis cultivation, is the consumer price. With legalization, medically or recreationally, spreading around the world, the price of cannabis is due to drop. In Colorado for instance, the cannabis market price benchmark has dropped 13% from 2016 to 2017. This trend, along with fluctuating energy prices, water scarcity, and growing focus on land use, will eventually force growers to become more efficient in order to remain in business.
Dehumidification technologies are proven to reduce energy consumption, while increasing crop quality and uniformity. In the path to improving performance and profitability, humidity control is an excellent first step.