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Abstract: There currently exists many different methodologies for growing cannabis in controlled environments, however there is very little published research on the subject in regards to cannabis cultivation. Conventional approaches using bottled nutrients have a higher cost of production, which has become a challenge cultivators as the market price of cannabis has dropped dramatically. With an estimated revenue of 9 billion in legal cannabis sales in 2017 and estimated revenue of 11 billion for 2018, the emerging market is growing rapidly. Many of the current methods involving hydroponic cultivation have a large carbon footprint and negative environmental impact due to the use of fossil fuels. These methods typically only allow for the media to be used one or two times before being disposed of, which contributes to leaching of phosphates and other nutrients into our groundwater.

The need for more sustainable and earth-friendly methods of cultivation is important from a social perception, environmental, and economic perspective.

Methodology: 

For this study an enclosed indoor space was outfitted with three 4’ x 12 ‘ soil beds each containing different organic living soil recipes.

Soil Bed #1: S2S comprised of Peat Moss, Pumice, Compost, Worm Castings, Blood Meal, Feather Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Kelp Meal, Insect Frass, Fish Bone Meal, Bone Meal, Bat Guano, Seabird Guano, Soft Rock Phosphate, Potassium Sulfate, Langbeinite, Greensand, Azomite, Oyster Shell Flour, Gypsum, Basalt Rock Dust, Glacial Rock Dust, Iron Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Nutrisorb, Fossilized Carbon Complex, Diatomaceous Earth

Soil Bed #2: KIS Organics Biochar Soil comprised of biochar, spaghnum peat moss, fish compost, earthworm castings,  volcanic pumice, glacial rock dust, basalt, soft rock phosphate, oyster shell flour, alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, crustacean meal, kelp meal, neem cake, karanja cake, fish meal, feather meal, steamed bone meal, agricultural lime.

Soil Bed #3: XXX Soil Mix comprised of Peat Moss, Coconut Coir, Perlite, African Night Crawler Worm Castings, Composted Porcine Manure, Glacial Rock Dust, Basalt Rock Dust, Oyster Shell Flour, Insect Frass, Fishbone Meal, Certified Organic Alfalfa Meal, Gypsum, Limestone Flour, Bone Meal, Feather Meal, Mined Potassium Sulfate, Blood Meal, Rock Phosphate, Fossilized Carbon Complex, Kelp Meal, Bat Guano/Mineralized Phosphate amended with 10% Biochar and a blend of compost at 2% by volume.

All soil was mixed on-site to ensure accuracy. Each bed was planted with clones containing 1/3 Cookies and Cream cultivar (CNC) and 2/3 Gorilla Glue #4 cultivar (GG).

Environmental Controls:

82F (27.7 C) daytime temperature, 76F (24.4 C) nighttime set point

75rH daytime, 64rH nighttime set point

1500 ppm CO2 set point

Dehumidifiers on 15 minute increment timers so they would turn on 30 mins before lights out.  

1000 pfd average at canopy height

Lighting controller would turn off half the lights 15-30 mins before the other half so temp would drop slowly and not spike humidity. 

Humidifier on another 15min increment timer so it would turn off 30 mins before lights turned off.

Plants were watered using Blumat irrigation and set to maintain moisture content in the soil at 100 mbar.

Equipment:

Three rolling beds on v-casters and v-track, each 4’x12’.

LED lighting from Fluence Biotechnology (https://fluence.science/). There were 12 VYPRxPlus lights over a 12’ x 12’ canopy with each light covering a 3’ x 4’ footprint. We chose Fluence based on the existing body of research supporting their lights as well as the higher efficiency of LED lighting in comparison to HPS, double-ended HPS and LEC technology.

Two 12k BTU Air Conditioning Units; 200 pint Ideal-Air Humidifier; Atlas 8 Digital CO2 Controller;  2 - 70 pint Dehumidifiers; Helios 12 Light Controller

 

Soil Testing: We used three types of soil tests to evaluate the nutrient and mineral levels in the media. The Meilich III test and saturated paste test from Logan Laboratories and a Soil Savvy (artificial resin) test from UniBest. The Meilich III test is an acid extraction that is helpful in determining what nutrients and minerals are in the media but it does not show what is currently available for uptake for the plant. The Saturated Paste Tests and Soil Savvy test are two different testing methodologies designed to show what is currently available for plant uptake.

 

Day 53 of flower

Day 63 of flower

Results:

Yield expressed in lbs. per 16 square feet

 Cultivar S2S KIS Organics XXX
Gorilla Glue #4 2.13 2.76 2.65
Gorilla Glue #4 2.62 3.22 2.99
Cookies and Cream 1.44 1.95 1.53

 

*Average yield across all cultivars was 2.475 lbs. per 4’x4’ area

Yield expressed in grams per square feet

 Cultivar S2S KIS Organics XXX
Gorilla Glue #4 60 78 75
Gorilla Glue #4 74 91 85
Cookies and Cream 41 55 43

 

*Average yield across all cultivars was 66.88 grams per square foot

Discussion: 

While the overall yields show promise, replication of these trials would be needed to draw further conclusions. Furthermore, based on the soil tests, additional trace mineral applications could have potentially improved overall plant health and yield even though deficiencies weren’t visually apparent.

Soil S2S was mixed using target ranges to match the macro nutrient levels in the KIS Organics soil, however guaranteed analysis on guanos was not reliable and resulted in very imbalanced soil. For future trials it would be pertinent to test the various fertilizer inputs due to the variance in manufacturing and processing.

It is also important to note that soil testing can show variability across laboratories and samples and the goal is not a perfectly balanced soil test but rather healthy plants. The soil test is just a tool to allow us to see potential deficiencies and excesses. In this study we had quite a bit of variability in test results, however there was much less variability that was visible when viewing the plants. This further demonstrates the ability of the plant to regulate it’s own nutrient demand when given traditionally “excessive” levels of nutrients in organic, biologically-active soils.

As we learn more and improve these processes, it seems likely that living soils offer the ability to match or beat hydroponic yields with less input and labor cost, a smaller carbon footprint, and in a manner that would allow for the final product to be certified organic based on current National Organic Program standards.

Citations/Resources:

https://www.slyng.com/news/why-are-so-many-weed-farmers-going-out-of-business-411

https://ktla.com/2018/01/31/u-s-legal-weed-industry-generated-9b-in-revenue-in-2017/

https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/cannabis/cannabis_water_quality.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-marijuana-environment/banned-pesticides-from-illegal-pot-farms-seep-into-california-water-idUSKCN1BJ13W

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-marijuana-environment/toxic-waste-from-u-s-pot-farms-alarms-experts-idUSKBN1AM0C3

https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/NaturalResources/CannabisWaterQuality.pdf

https://phys.org/news/2017-02-legal-marijuana-sales-escalating-environment.html

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.6b06343

https://ktla.com/2018/01/31/u-s-legal-weed-industry-generated-9b-in-revenue-in-2017/

 

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Abstract: There currently exists many different methodologies for growing cannabis in controlled environments, however there is very little published research on the subject in regards to cannabis cultivation. Conventional approaches using bottled nutrients have a higher cost of production, which has become a challenge cultivators as the market price of cannabis has dropped dramatically. With an estimated revenue of 9 billion in legal cannabis sales in 2017 and estimated revenue of 11 billion for 2018, the emerging market is growing rapidly. Many of the current methods involving hydroponic cultivation have a large carbon footprint and negative environmental impact due to the use of fossil fuels. These methods typically only allow for the media to be used one or two times before being disposed of, which contributes to leaching of phosphates and other nutrients into our groundwater.

The need for more sustainable and earth-friendly methods of cultivation is important from a social perception, environmental, and economic perspective.

Methodology: 

For this study an enclosed indoor space was outfitted with three 4’ x 12 ‘ soil beds each containing different organic living soil recipes.

Soil Bed #1: S2S comprised of Peat Moss, Pumice, Compost, Worm Castings, Blood Meal, Feather Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Kelp Meal, Insect Frass, Fish Bone Meal, Bone Meal, Bat Guano, Seabird Guano, Soft Rock Phosphate, Potassium Sulfate, Langbeinite, Greensand, Azomite, Oyster Shell Flour, Gypsum, Basalt Rock Dust, Glacial Rock Dust, Iron Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Nutrisorb, Fossilized Carbon Complex, Diatomaceous Earth

Soil Bed #2: KIS Organics Biochar Soil comprised of biochar, spaghnum peat moss, fish compost, earthworm castings,  volcanic pumice, glacial rock dust, basalt, soft rock phosphate, oyster shell flour, alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, crustacean meal, kelp meal, neem cake, karanja cake, fish meal, feather meal, steamed bone meal, agricultural lime.

Soil Bed #3: XXX Soil Mix comprised of Peat Moss, Coconut Coir, Perlite, African Night Crawler Worm Castings, Composted Porcine Manure, Glacial Rock Dust, Basalt Rock Dust, Oyster Shell Flour, Insect Frass, Fishbone Meal, Certified Organic Alfalfa Meal, Gypsum, Limestone Flour, Bone Meal, Feather Meal, Mined Potassium Sulfate, Blood Meal, Rock Phosphate, Fossilized Carbon Complex, Kelp Meal, Bat Guano/Mineralized Phosphate amended with 10% Biochar and a blend of compost at 2% by volume.

All soil was mixed on-site to ensure accuracy. Each bed was planted with clones containing 1/3 Cookies and Cream cultivar (CNC) and 2/3 Gorilla Glue #4 cultivar (GG).

Environmental Controls:

82F (27.7 C) daytime temperature, 76F (24.4 C) nighttime set point

75rH daytime, 64rH nighttime set point

1500 ppm CO2 set point

Dehumidifiers on 15 minute increment timers so they would turn on 30 mins before lights out.  

1000 pfd average at canopy height

Lighting controller would turn off half the lights 15-30 mins before the other half so temp would drop slowly and not spike humidity. 

Humidifier on another 15min increment timer so it would turn off 30 mins before lights turned off.

Plants were watered using Blumat irrigation and set to maintain moisture content in the soil at 100 mbar.

Equipment:

Three rolling beds on v-casters and v-track, each 4’x12’.

LED lighting from Fluence Biotechnology (https://fluence.science/). There were 12 VYPRxPlus lights over a 12’ x 12’ canopy with each light covering a 3’ x 4’ footprint. We chose Fluence based on the existing body of research supporting their lights as well as the higher efficiency of LED lighting in comparison to HPS, double-ended HPS and LEC technology.

Two 12k BTU Air Conditioning Units; 200 pint Ideal-Air Humidifier; Atlas 8 Digital CO2 Controller;  2 - 70 pint Dehumidifiers; Helios 12 Light Controller

 

Soil Testing: We used three types of soil tests to evaluate the nutrient and mineral levels in the media. The Meilich III test and saturated paste test from Logan Laboratories and a Soil Savvy (artificial resin) test from UniBest. The Meilich III test is an acid extraction that is helpful in determining what nutrients and minerals are in the media but it does not show what is currently available for uptake for the plant. The Saturated Paste Tests and Soil Savvy test are two different testing methodologies designed to show what is currently available for plant uptake.

 

Day 53 of flower

Day 63 of flower

Results:

Yield expressed in lbs. per 16 square feet

 Cultivar S2S KIS Organics XXX
Gorilla Glue #4 2.13 2.76 2.65
Gorilla Glue #4 2.62 3.22 2.99
Cookies and Cream 1.44 1.95 1.53

 

*Average yield across all cultivars was 2.475 lbs. per 4’x4’ area

Yield expressed in grams per square feet

 Cultivar S2S KIS Organics XXX
Gorilla Glue #4 60 78 75
Gorilla Glue #4 74 91 85
Cookies and Cream 41 55 43

 

*Average yield across all cultivars was 66.88 grams per square foot

Discussion: 

While the overall yields show promise, replication of these trials would be needed to draw further conclusions. Furthermore, based on the soil tests, additional trace mineral applications could have potentially improved overall plant health and yield even though deficiencies weren’t visually apparent.

Soil S2S was mixed using target ranges to match the macro nutrient levels in the KIS Organics soil, however guaranteed analysis on guanos was not reliable and resulted in very imbalanced soil. For future trials it would be pertinent to test the various fertilizer inputs due to the variance in manufacturing and processing.

It is also important to note that soil testing can show variability across laboratories and samples and the goal is not a perfectly balanced soil test but rather healthy plants. The soil test is just a tool to allow us to see potential deficiencies and excesses. In this study we had quite a bit of variability in test results, however there was much less variability that was visible when viewing the plants. This further demonstrates the ability of the plant to regulate it’s own nutrient demand when given traditionally “excessive” levels of nutrients in organic, biologically-active soils.

As we learn more and improve these processes, it seems likely that living soils offer the ability to match or beat hydroponic yields with less input and labor cost, a smaller carbon footprint, and in a manner that would allow for the final product to be certified organic based on current National Organic Program standards.

Citations/Resources:

https://www.slyng.com/news/why-are-so-many-weed-farmers-going-out-of-business-411

https://ktla.com/2018/01/31/u-s-legal-weed-industry-generated-9b-in-revenue-in-2017/

https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/cannabis/cannabis_water_quality.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-marijuana-environment/banned-pesticides-from-illegal-pot-farms-seep-into-california-water-idUSKCN1BJ13W

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-marijuana-environment/toxic-waste-from-u-s-pot-farms-alarms-experts-idUSKBN1AM0C3

https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/NaturalResources/CannabisWaterQuality.pdf

https://phys.org/news/2017-02-legal-marijuana-sales-escalating-environment.html

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.6b06343

https://ktla.com/2018/01/31/u-s-legal-weed-industry-generated-9b-in-revenue-in-2017/

 

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A COST ANALYSIS OF KIS ORGANICS SOIL OVER A 3 YEAR PERIOD

 

TAD HUSSEY

JAYA PALMER

10.03.2018

  

Abstract: There currently exists many different methodologies for growing cannabis in controlled environments.  Many of the current methods involving hydroponic cultivation have a large carbon footprint and negative environmental impact due to the use of fossil fuels.  These methodologies only allow for the media to be used one or two times before being disposed of, which contributes to leaching of phosphates and other nutrients into our groundwater. An additional factor with cannabis cultivation is cost of production. The current market in WA and OR has driven the value of cannabis to record lows, resulting in many growers going bankrupt. It is increasingly important to find ways to cut costs while maintaining a high quality product for the retail market. This paper is an attempt to show the affordability of living soil methodologies in regards to cost and yield for commercial cultivators of cannabis.

Methodology: 

Our preferred method of cultivation is in raised beds in flowering rooms with a minimum of 10” of soil depth and a maximum of 18”.  A 4'x 8’ bed for example, holds 1 yard of soil. This allows for optimal nutrient exchange between the media and plant and also offers greater buffering capacity for any nutrient imbalances or watering issues that may occur over the life of the plant. 

Rolling beds may be used to maximize space efficiency and energy output. 

The information below is based on a prospectus of:

5 crops per year = 10.4 weeks (73 days) in a cycle. 

A 1,000 square feet building at 71% space use efficiency = 710 square feet of canopy.

1 cubic yard of soil covers 32 square feet* = 22.2 yards of soil

The initial cost of soil is higher than more traditional media options but it contains the nutrients and substrate for the cycle and allow for the soil to be re-used in successive cycles at a much lower cost.

KIS Organics Commercial Growers Mix Costs

1,000 Square Foot Building

A 10,000 square feet building at 71% space use efficiency = 7100 square feet of canopy.  1 cubic yard of soil covers 32 square feet* = 222 yards of soil

10,000 Square Foot Building

For successive cycles the following is added per yard of soil:

1 cubic foot of compost or earthworm castings

1/3 - 1/4 large KIS Organics Nutrient Pack

1/4-1/2 cubic foot of aeration amendments (perlite, pumice, lava rock, etc…)

*Less soil may be needed as 20-30% of canopy will be vegetative plants in smaller pots. More soil may be needed if space use efficiency is increased via rolling tables like the photo below.

YIELDS:

In a trial from 2017, the following yields were reported on the first cycle in KIS Organics Biochar Soil. White paper available upon request.

 

It should be noted that yield can vary considerably based on genetics and environmental conditions. Media and nutrients typically get the blame/credit for crop health and yield, however improper watering, lighting, CO2 levels, pruning, and other environmental conditions play a huge role as well. 

We believe grams per square foot to be the best metric to evaluate yield when comparing different methodologies.

COST OF GOODS FOR MEDIA AND NUTRIENTS BASED ON YIELD

1,000 square foot building

10,000 square ft building

Soil Testing: 

Soil testing is recommend as part of our program. This allows for us to make adjustments based on any noted deficiencies or excesses and determine any limiting factors for growth. The recommended tests below range from $25-60 and testing should be done in the last two to three weeks of flowering to allow for adjustments for the following cycle. 

We used three types of soil tests to evaluate the nutrient and mineral levels in the media. We used the Meilich III test and saturated paste test from Logan Laboratories and a Soil Savvy (artificial resin) test from UniBest. The Meilich III test is an acid extraction that is helpful in determining what nutrients and minerals are in the media but it does not tell you what is currently available for uptake for the plant. The Saturated Paste Tests and Soil Savvy test are two different testing methodologies designed to show what is currently available for plant uptake.

 

Discussion: 

Traditional methods carry the additional labor cost of removing the soil from the facility and purchasing new soil, as well as a disposal cost of used media. These costs need to be figured into the cost of production and labor is typically one of the largest variable overhead costs in a commercial facility.

With our soils, we have had growers using the same soil for over 5 years following the methodology above. This allows for a lower cost of production over time as well as the added benefits of being organic, more sustainable, and producing a high quality flower. We believe that incorporating agricultural principles in creating a fertile living soil in an indoor environment allows us to maximize crop quality and efficiency on a commercial scale. Numerous awards have been won in our soils including 2015 NW Cannabis Cup Best Sativa, 2016 Dope Cup Best Hybrid Flower, 2017 Dope Cup Best Rosin and Best Hash, 2018 2nd Place Best Rosin.

Gold Leaf Gardens is an Award Winning Cannabis Producer in WA State that has been re-using KIS Organics soil for past 3 years.

 

Citations:

Estimated Cost of Production for Legalized Cannabis JONATHAN P. CAULKINS https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/working_papers/2010/RAND_WR764.pdf

https://www.slyng.com/news/why-are-so-many-weed-farmers-going-out-of-business-411

https://www.kisorganics.com/products/kis-organics-commercial-growers-mix

A Comparison of Living Soil Methodologies in Relation to Plant Health and Yield in a Controlled Environment by Tad Hussey and Jaya Palmer

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Most growers love the idea of re-using their soil, but it can be a bit daunting for a variety of reasons. In this blog post, I'm going to review what the advantages and disadvantages are, as well as lay out a simple plan you can follow.

Advantages:

The advantages of re-using your soil are numerous. You have a lower cost of production by not having to purchase new soil. It costs a fraction of what new potting soil costs to re-use soil. You also have a lower environmental impact, less labor, and better soil ecology over time leading to healthier plants. Also, the labor of moving soil in and out of a facility or location is a ton of work.

Disadvantages:

There's a reason most commercial production facilities on the ornamental side don't re-use their media. The risk of pathogens or disease is much greater and can devastate a crop if not properly managed. Now I would argue that much of this can be mitigated through good IPM strategies and controls, but I think it's important people are aware of the downsides.

Now if you've gotten through the first section and are still interested in re-using your soil, then I've got some pointers below:

Soil Testing: 

The best option is to get a soil test so you can determine what nutrients are present so you can add only what the soil needs and prevent excesses or deficiencies. For re-amending soil, we use the standard soil test from Logan Labs. It's a Meilich III test and something that many labs offer. Once you choose a lab it's important to stay with them when comparing results. These tests aren't that expensive ($25-30) and give you a ballpark idea of where you soil is at. Don't get worried if the numbers aren't perfect, but it will allow you to make small adjustments to improve your soil.

For a mid-cycle test that will allow you to set benchmarks or make mid-cycle corrections, the soil test from Soil Savvy functions more like a plant tissue test.

If you're growing with synthetic bottled nutrients (mineral salts):

The advantages of mineral salts is that the nutrients are in a form the plant can immediately uptake. I've seen some beautiful plants grown using light doses of these fertilizers, however it can become a bit trickier when you want to re-use the soil. Over time you can get salt buildup which requires "flushing" the soil to remove the nutrients, which uses a lot of water, leaches into our groundwater, and requires you to test and re-amend the soil at higher than normal rates. These soils can be re-used but it does require quite a bit more work to do so, and typically the media used is of lower quality.

If you're growing with organic bottled nutrients:

This is where a soil test is key. You'll want to make sure you're not getting buildups of any particular macro nutrient. Typically we see too much phosphorus and sometimes magnesium. Most bottled nutrients are not truly balanced and while they will allow you to grow a decent plant and yield, there's plenty of room for improvement.

If you're growing with "no till" or "water only" or just amending the soil with various "meals" or soil amendments:

Some growers will just add whatever they have on hand or follow a recipe without ever testing. Typically the process involves cutting the plant at the base of the stalk and then topdressing with more nutrients and compost each cycle.  

If you're growing in containers:

Keep in mind that with a "Water Only" style grow, you're putting the nutrients directly into the soil/media and so you do end up needing to grow in a larger container than if you were using mineral salts or bottled nutrients. This means you need to let go of the large plant in tiny container mentality that you commonly see with salt-based growers. It just doesn't work. We typically recommend a minimum of a 7 gallon container for a full cycle plant, but optimally you would be in a 15 gallon or larger. Beds are really our favorite for numerous reasons.

If you're growing in beds:

This is our favorite way to grow crops. By having a greater amount of soil per plant you're allowing for better access to nutrients and water, root space won't be a limiting factor, and plants can work symbiotically in the same soil as there's research showing how plants can interact in the rhizosphere.

If you're using the KIS Soil and KIS Nutrient Packs:

The goal with our soils and nutrients was to simplify the process for growers without sacrificing quality. We start with a high initial nutrient charge when we mix the soil for the first time. After that, a small addition of organic matter (compost or earthworm castings) and our Nutrient Pack is enough to get you through a full cycle.

There’s a couple of ways to approach it. In a container (5-15 gallon), you may want to add only a portion of the total amount to the soil at the beginning of the cycle and then top dress with the nutrients a few times during flowering. If the plant has access to less soil, then you’ll need to provide it with more nutrients than you would in a raised bed or in-ground.

You can read The Economics of Water Only Soils to get a better idea on cost with a program like ours and also the Advanced Nutrient Schedule for KIS Soils.

Overall though, it’s as simple as just harvesting your plant and then adding a small amount of the KIS Nutrient Pack and a bit of compost and then starting your next cycle 24-36 hours later. After about 5 cycles, I do recommend a soil test so we can see how the particular cultivars and your environment are effecting the nutrient uptake. For instance, we may see an accumulation of Ca over time, where we would want to customize the Nutrient Pack based off your soil test.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, re-using soil remains a viable option no matter what your scale and environment. I always treat my soil like it’s alive and has a plant in it. When I garden, I do so with the soil in mind because I know if I have healthy soil then the plant will grow stronger and yield better.

If you have specific questions regarding re-using soil, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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