The cannabis industry has pushed politics, medicine, science, and technology in new and exciting directions. Every day it seems that we break another barrier, or make a new advancement that will revolutionize the world. But at the center of it all, there sits a plant that has grown the same way for thousands of years. Whether from seed, or cuttings, the art of growing cannabis has been relatively unchanged, until now.
The issues with traditional cultivation
There are inherent shortfalls to growing cannabis. If you use seed, the genetics change with each generation. If you use clones, keeping a separate area for mother plants can be burdensome. Mother plants give identical genetics but are susceptible to disease. You can only take so many cuttings before they have to rest and heal.
For large scale grows, that means to populate your grow with enough clones, you need a lot of mothers. And that takes work and space, lots of space.
Empowering women of science
Women are blazing a trail in cannabis as leaders, owners, and innovators. The new industry gives them a unique and more open opportunity for showcasing their abilities compared to established fields. Leading the way for Tweed Farms is Senior Propagation Manager, Dr Upeksha Nanayakkara.
Upeksha runs a team of 6 techs that are implementing the tissue culture process. Starting out as an undergrad in biology in Sri Lanka, she moved to America and received her Masters of Science in Forestry and a doctorate in Plant Pathology from Penn State University. She did her post- doctoral research at the Potato Research Center in New Brunswick.
Using her extensive research experience working with other crops, she is now changing the science of cannabis for Tweed. She took the time to explain their radical new process to me over the phone.
Tissue culture cultivation: Cloning on a whole new level
The process, known as in vitro propagation, or tissue culture is the practice of taking tiny pieces of a plant and growing many new ones from it. Think about potatoes. Chop one up, and you can grow dozens from the pieces. Upeksha and her scientists are perfecting the process on cannabis.
Soon, the traditional “mother plants” could be a thing of the past. Instead, they take a piece of cannabis no bigger than a couple centimeters, and through a special process, help it grow into a sprout. That sprout can then be chopped into several others.
The multiplication of clones then grows on an exponential scale. And they do so without ever growing larger than a few inches in height, meaning they can store hundreds on vertical tray storage systems in a small space. Plant cultures can be maintained in the sprout stage indefinitely, which will make it easier for Tweed to keep especially prized genetics for years to come.
Then, when the growers need clones, scientists change the growth medium, causing the sprouts to develop roots and become full-fledged plants.
Tweed helping patients, cannabis, & the environment
Tweed has already revolutionized quality and consistency in medical cannabis oil production. With a Compassionate Pricing Promise, they help customers get medicine at a reduced rate. Now, they are taking their tradition of excellence even further.
Tweed’s spokesperson Jordan Sinclair says compared to traditional cloning, tissue culturing produces disease-free plants and thinks it’s the future of large grows because mom rooms shouldn’t occupy 30% of your grow space if you’re growing 100,000 plants. Not to mention that mothers won’t stay in a vegetative state under natural daylight.
With T.C. you get consistent products with minimal footprint because you’re reproducing at a more micro level.
With the surge in commercial growing, environmental impact is a concern for lawmakers, citizens, and businesses. Using smaller plants to produce big yields, and growing them in a greenhouse year round means more access to dependable, consistent medicine. Doing so with a smaller impact on the environment means saving both money and resources.
Do you think tissue culture will give cannabis the production capacity and consistency to finally be recognized as a mainstream medicine? Will this practice be adopted by other growers, large and small? Tell us on social media or in the comments below.