The spring is a beautiful time of year where life seems to be born all over again. Snow melts, leaves begin to pop out on the trees and flowers begin to bloom with the shift of the sun’s relation to the Earth. Also, for allergy sufferers there is a lot of sneezing, irritated eyes and runny noses as pollen is released in massive amounts by all of the plants looking to reproduce. Colorado can now add marijuana pollen to the list of drifting pollen, and panic is setting in over fear of outdoor marijuana farms getting ruined.
If cannabis plants cross pollinate, that changes the plant dramatically. If hemp pollen mixes with female marijuana plants, then the amount of THC and other cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana can drop off substantially. Marijuana pollen needs to mix with female marijuana plants and Colorado farmers may have misjudged the lengths that life will go to reproduce.
In Pueblo County, Colorado, pollen drift is wreaking havoc on cannabis crops. Tom Dermody, Executive Director of the Industrial Hemp Research Foundation (IHRF), calls it a ticking time bomb with national implications. Pollen drift is the unintentional cross-pollination between different types of crops. With cannabis, that includes three variations:
When female cannabis plants are allowed to cross pollinate with seed and fiber orientated-cannabis, their cannabinoid potency plummets. This means CBD-producing hemp and THC-producing marijuana crops are particularly at risk. If they become pollinated, they’re either discounted as substandard or considered a total loss.
This is the problem in Pueblo, a mecca of outdoor, female-only cannabis grows. Nearby, five neighboring counties have robust outdoor industrial hemp cultivations. “This has resulted in a significant amount of pollen transfer-related crop loss,” says Dermody, “somewhere to the tune of 12 to 18 percent, depending on which part of the county you’re in.”
Pueblo County’s solution was to enact a four-mile buffer between hemp and marijuana grows. It didn’t work out as they’d hoped. “It sounds like a great fix,” says Dermody, “but pollen dust travels far greater distances than four miles. And the county cannot interfere with the production of industrial hemp outside the county line.”
Indeed, pollen dust can travel hundreds of miles. One famous case of pollen drift occurred in southern Spain in 1995. Scientists taking air samples detected large amounts of marijuana pollen, which had traveled 250 miles over the Strait of Gibraltar and 100 miles inland from Morocco. While the U.S. may not have warm sea winds to carry pollen for hundreds of miles, the example does show that pollen dust won’t stop at an imaginary line.
The buffer problem has now extended beyond Pueblo, which could spell crop loss in other states as well. Washington, for example, took Pueblo County’s four-mile buffer as gospel, writing it into the state’s recent hemp legislation, HB2064. As a result, Washington now has two problems on its hands. With so many recreational marijuana grows in the western part of the state, it’s nearly impossible to grow industrial hemp in that region. And as buffer zones may be ineffectual, pollen-drift-related crop loss could happen anyway.
“This has resulted in a significant amount of pollen transfer-related crop loss,” says Dermody, “somewhere to the tune of 12 to 18 percent, depending on which part of the county you’re in.”
We need science-backed research that can give us real data regarding buffer zones and pollen drift. And we need to find alternatives. This is where the IHRF comes in. They help institutions of higher learning get the financial and material support they need to conduct hemp-related research. They have several projects scheduled for 2018 to study how, when and where pollen drift occurs with cannabis, and how to prevent it.
They hope to have a solution by 2019. Dermody expects it will have less to do with buffers, and more to do with strategic timing and planting schedules, alternating between industrial hemp and all-female cannabis crops industry-wide.
The post Marijuana Pollen Floating in the Air May Ruin Outdoor Grows appeared first on Marijuana News.