Cannabis naturally contains THC and is a dioecious plant, very sensitive to environmental conditions such as day length and temperature. It shows different development and reaction according to changing environmental conditions. For this reason, the expected benefit is obtained by cultivating cannabis under different environments and conditions according to the expectation of utilization. Cannabis is a plant that can grow in most climates and is resistant to diseases and climate change. So what do you know about cannabis farming?
Cannabis farming and breeding methods have been developed over the years with modern breeding techniques and in line with increasing and changing producer and consumer demands. It is a one-year C3 plant that is naturally foreign pollinated, as it usually has female and male flowers in different plants (dioecious). Therefore, all cannabis varieties constantly change, forming a heterozygous structure. Therefore, the control of pollination in cannabis is the most important issue in terms of cannabis farming studies. Apart from this, temperature and humidity control are other important factors for cannabis farming.
Climate and Soil Requirements in Cannabis Farming
Cannabis has wide adaptability. For this reason, it is a plant spread from warm climate zone to subtropical climate zone. Pre-planting rainfall is required. Cannabis, which is resistant to light frosts, is sensitive to late spring frosts and is damaged at temperatures lower than -5 ° C. Seed production needs at least a five-month development period, not below zero degrees, and a four-month development period for fiber.
Planting should be performed between 10-30 of April for the coastal belt, and at the end of March and at the beginning of April in the Inner and Passage regions. It can be grown easily in humid areas such as the coastline but can also be grown in arid regions provided that it is irrigated. The cannabis plant requires 4 months of growth for fiber production and 5 months for seed, and it gives a good fiber product especially in rainy and humid areas. In places where rainfall is insufficient, it is possible to produce fiber by irrigation.
Drought and high humidity accelerate growth. Fiber-type hemp can be grown without irrigation in regions with high relative humidity, a suitable temperature, and a minimum of 700 mm of rainfall. For fiber production, rainfall should be distributed evenly during the season. High temperatures and drought accelerate the maturation of cannabis, causing a decrease in fiber yield and quality. In the production of seeds, excessive irrigation delays the harvest and the number of death days.
The soils where cannabis develops best are alluvial soils with good drainage, deep, airy, fertile, medium-heavy, loamy, rich in plant nutrients, pH value between 6-7.5, calcareous, loose, and good organic matter ratio. Heavy, light, poor, poorly permeable, acidic soils are not suitable for cannabis. Acidity, slightly arid and sandy soils, heavy clayey and loamy soils are also not suitable for cannabis cultivation.
The plant wants to have a lot of nutrients in the soil. Highly acidic soils may be suitable for growing cannabis by liming. Although cannabis loves moisture in the soil, it will increase the acidity of the soil in excessive moisture, so it will be difficult to use the nutrients in the soil. The fact that the soil is constantly in water causes the yellowing of cannabis leaves. It stops plant growth. It prevents the roots from getting enough air.
How to Plant Cannabis?
The main purpose of the crop rotation is to maintain the productivity of the soil and to increase the yield per unit area. By means of crop rotation practices, the organic matter of the soil is increased so that the soil holds more water, the fertility of the soil is increased, and consequently, more favorable environments are created for cultivated plants. It is a good pre-plant. It may be in crop rotation with mostly legumes and Poaceae. It leaves a field without wild weeds for the next cultivated plant.
Sowing is usually done by hand spreading and machine. Hand-sprinkling sowing is not suitable for reasons such as using excessive seed, seed not falling to the same depth, not providing a uniform output, and difficult maintenance work. It should be given importance to sowing with a machine as possible. Pneumatic seeders that cultivate wheat are also suitable for cannabis cultivation. When planting with a pneumatic seeder, the row spacing applied should be adjusted to 20 cm in fiber and seed production.
The amount of seed to be used in sowing varies according to the purpose of fiber or seed production. If production is planned for fiber, 20 cm row spacing, 160 plants per square meter; If planting is planned for seed, the seeder should be adjusted so that 20 cm row spacing is 120 plants per square meter. The seed amount that should be used is 3.5-4 kg/da for fiber production and 2.5-3 kg/da for seed production. Seed sowing depth should be adjusted as 2-3 cm. In deeper sowing, a sparse plant density is obtained as the seed will not be easily produced.
Sex Control in Cannabis Farming
Since monoic fiber cannabis varieties have higher seed yield and homogeneity than dioic varieties, their mechanical harvesting is more suitable. Among the disadvantages of monoic plants are that they are plants developed from a single homozygous, the necessity to maintain their monoic characteristic (self-pollination), and attention to isolation in seed propagation. In dioic varieties, selection of males before pollination and pollination with only the best yielding pollen is a common practice in the breeding.
For this reason, gender selection is important in cannabis cultivation. Genetic and environmental factors are effective in determining the sex of cannabis. There are two sex chromosomes, X and Y, in cannabis. Here the Y chromosome is larger-type than the X chromosomes and autosomes. True male plants have one X and one Y chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes, resulting in a difference in genome size between male and female plants as determined by flow cytometry (1683 Mbp and 1636 Mbp for the diploid genome, respectively).
The long arm of the Y chromosome is separated from other chromosomal regions by showing early condensation at the metaphase stage. However, as with many types of cannabis, sex determination is not controlled solely by sex chromosomes. It can also be replaced by chemicals such as plant growth regulators or silver thiosulfate. While GA3 develops male characters in male plants; cytokinins and ethylene provide femininity. While silver thiosulfate promotes male flower formation in female plants; it is used as a useful tool in producing seeds that yield only female plants.
In dioic cannabis culture, male plants tend to bloom and mature earlier in terms of growth rate and development between male and female plants. While this situation creates variety in the product; it may also cause large plants to overwhelm small ones due to competition between plants. Thus, sex-controlling compounds appear to be useful tools to achieve sex and homogeneity in cannabis. Various markers have been identified for the diagnosis of male cannabis. SCAR marker fragments are present in female, male, and monoic plants, but a single band is specific for male plants. Therefore, these are not the primers themselves, but the trait in the reproduced region is the trait specific to the male.
A specific marker (SCAR, OPA08; developed in the MADC2 region; 391 bp fragment in male plants, two larger fragments in females and monoic plants) is a fast, easy and direct PCR method to safeguard male plants in all developmental stages, dioic and monoic varieties. It provides some way to be defined. Three male-specific markers have been developed at the MADC5, MADC6, and MADC400-S208 loci. En-gels are environmental influences that alter the expression of male flowers that can alter the female: monoic ratio in monoic plants.
Selection Breeding in Cannabis Farming
Selection is a broad description of the factors that change the reproductive status of a genotype. By selection, the number of progeny that individuals present in a population transfer to the next generation changes. The selection of populations can occur both naturally and artificially. The change in gene frequencies that may occur as a result of selection depends on the gametes. Therefore, the status of dominance in the genotype should also be taken into account.
By choosing in accordance with the desired purpose in existing or subsequently created populations, creating individuals with the desired characteristics and purifying these individuals are also applied in cannabis plants as in many plants. Different selection methods are used according to the purpose and the technological structure used. Selection can occur or be created in a positive or negative way. In other words, it can be applied by selecting existing genes and transferring them more intensively to the next generation or eliminating them.
Selection breeding based on the principle of selecting the genotypes in the direction of the purpose from a population that shows hereditary changes in terms of the traits or traits studied is a method that is used significantly to provide material for variety protection, variety development, and hybridization breeding studies. The success of this method is directly proportional to the extent of genetic variability in the population and the structure and heritability of the genes that are effective in the management of the trait studied.
Success in selection breeding depends on the richness of genetic variation in the population. Increasing genetic variation is achieved by keeping the population large. The larger the population, the higher the chance of finding plants with the desired characteristics. The success of this breeding method, which begins with the cultivation of plants by human beings, depends on the occurrence of genetic change in the population.
- Clone Selection
A single individual selected as a superior quality from a specific population belonging to any plant species and the new population formed as a result of the continuous asexual reproduction of this individual is called a “clone”. The basis of this method is to obtain populations with superior properties from plants with superior economic features, which are obtained by making use of natural variations or hereditary variations by various methods.
In plants that can be grown vegetatively, the method of clone selection is extremely successful, especially in mixed populations. With this application, superior clones in the population can be easily selected according to their phenotypic appearance. The success of the clone selection method depends on the isolation of the superior genotype found in the population. The purpose of clone selection is to determine the most superior types and clones suitable for our purpose by making use of the differences existing in a variety.
- Bulk/Mass Selection
Developing local varieties with selections made from wild populations is the method used for almost any plant species when a sufficient wild plant population is available. Fiber has been genetically used to produce uniform breeding material, cultivars, and ecotypes, with either a bulk selection of hemp or a single plant selection from local varieties. For example, cultivated plants in the first quarter of the 20th century have been developed from local varieties by using vegetation period, morphology, pomological (height, diameter, weight, etc.), and physiological properties.
The most commonly used method for developing herbal material is the mass selection method; it is a cyclical practice aimed at improving all populations. With this breeding method, many common cannabis varieties derived from the Italian local variety “Carmagnola” have been developed in Italy, Hungary, and Romania. In Italy, “Bolognese”, “Toscana” and “Ferrarese” varieties; In China, “YunMa 1” and “YunMa 5” varieties were obtained from local varieties by the mass selection method.
Collective selection is a method applied in the development of traits with low heritability and especially managed by the effect of the dominant gene in plant breeding. The aim is to increase the spread of homozygote and reduce the risk of openings and loss of existing features without losing the population. With this method, which is based on phenotypic selection, it is very difficult to be successful in breeding variety. Because, in this method, it is not known whether the selected traits of the selected plants are homozygous or heterozygous and whether the superior trait consists of genotype or environmental conditions. This method can mostly be used to homogenize the genotypes with an expanded genotype and to protect the lineage of standard varieties.
Since this method continues as a large number of individuals bypassing the generation, it requires a very large production area and labor force. In many plants, it is possible to take one or more seeds from each progeny cluster/plant to get the population into the next generation. Transferring the entire intended population to the next generation as it is will be done with less labor. In the literature, this method is called the “Single Seed” method.
The method based on the selection of single plants from the population and the control of these plant progeny can be widely used in plant breeding. Since progeny control is essential in this method, the seeds of the selected plants are sown in separate progeny rows. Progeny sequences can be repetitive or non-repetitive, depending on the possibilities. In addition, selfing can be performed on these lines according to the foreign fertilization conditions in the region and the possibilities of the breeder.
Monopoly selection is a method applied in the development of traits with high heritability and which are directed especially by the effect of the non-dominant gene in plant breeding. Since selection in this method requires monitoring phenotypically first and then genotypically, the success rate is very high compared to mass selection. In fact, this method is based on Johansen’s pure line breeding method. However, this method requires more labor, money, and time than the collective selection method.
This method can be applied in the form of “purity-controlled monopoly selection, sequence-controlled selection, selection of progeny lines, repetitive progeny rows and compound family selection, collective pedigree selection and mixed progeny selection” with some differences depending on the conditions and purposes of plant breeding.
Fiber Production in Cannabis Farming
Maturity is a determining factor for textile fibers to be used in industrial applications. The maturity stage of a single fiber occurs from the outside to the inside with the development of the secondary wall. In the mature calf, the cell walls are thin and the lumen is small in volume. The development in the secondary wall begins in the growth stage of the plant and continues after the flowering stage. The characteristic features of the fibers vary according to the harvest period of the plant. For this reason, it is important to choose the correct harvesting period in order to obtain a product with the desired fiber quality.
The process of separating the fibers from the stems after the harvest of the cannabis plant is similar to the methods of flax fiber production. There are methods such as mechanical separation, holding in raw, pooling, chemical treatment, and enzyme application for separating the fibers from the stems. The process here is to expose the fibers by removing the woody parts of the stems. Basically, 3 different methods are used to obtain fiber from cannabis stalks that have been harvested and whose seeds have been separated:
- Biological Pooling Method
In this process, hemp stems are laid on the fields and exposed to microorganisms. In regions with high moisture content, the proliferation of the fungi is facilitated by this process, which is carried out in the spring and autumn seasons, with the effect of temperature and humidity. In this method, which takes place within a period of at least 1.5 months, since the decay occurs slowly, thin fibers with a soft handle are obtained.
- Mechanical Method
It is a method that provides fiber production by separating the fibrous parts and woody parts from each other by breaking and crushing the stems of the cannabis plant. Although this method is a faster and more economical method compared to the pooling method, the fibers obtained are harder. Since it is not possible to mechanically remove intercellular pectin, the mechanical method is not suitable for the production of fibers used in textiles.
- Chemical Method
It is the most suitable method after the enzyme method, which is suitable for the production of fiber from hemp. Clean, equal-length fibers free from stems and garbage are obtained. In this method, hemp stems are first cut and cooked under a certain pressure in an alkaline bath. It is cleaned of pectin by washing with plenty of water and rinsing. Afterward, the dried kernel fibers are mixed with cotton and similar fibers and yarn is obtained.
However, nowadays, cold or hot docking methods are being re-evaluated and at some points, cannabis fiber producers are said to have some drawbacks. Because the excessive decrease in the oxygen content of the water during pooling and the organic matter after the process is seen as harmful in terms of environmental pollution. Countries sensitive to environmental pollution have intensified their research by taking these factors into account. Especially France and the Netherlands are applying the new production methods they have developed for cannabis in the textile and paper production industry.
Cannabis can be harvested twice a year. The different ripening processes of cannabis’ male and female plants pose a problem during harvest. Male cannabis reaches harvest maturity approximately 100-110 days after sowing immediately after flowering. At this stage, the stems have the highest fiber quality. If they are harvested early, the fiber yield decreases due to the low fiber content, and it becomes difficult to pool the harvested stalks in the late harvest.
Even in such a case, it may be encountered that no fiber can be obtained as a result of lignification due to the accumulation of lignin instead of cellulose in the stalks. After pollination, female and male cannabis plants can be harvested. In this way, it is possible to benefit from the fibers of female plants. In the second harvest to obtain seeds, the female and male plants should be harvested immediately after the seed formation phase.
The physical and chemical properties and extraction methods of hemp fiber and its use in different products are important. Various processes have been studied and applied for hemp fiber extraction. Fiber bundles can be separated using enzymatic, microbiological, chemical, and physical methods, but the methods developed so far do not show economic applicability for industrial applications.
The most common are raw and water retention methods, both performed by pectic enzymes secreted by native microflora. Generally, at the end of the pooling process, from 50 kg of hemp stalks, 15-25 kg of dried cannabis stalks are obtained. 3 kg long fiber and 5-6 kg short fiber can be obtained from dried stems.
Maintenance Operations in Cannabis Farming
The maintenance procedures to be applied in the cannabis plant are described below.
Fiber-type cannabis can be grown without irrigation in regions with high relative humidity, a suitable temperature, and a minimum of 700 mm of rainfall. Hemp needs a lot of water, especially in the first growing stages. In arid regions with less than this amount of rainfall, irrigation should be done 2-4 times. For fiber production, rainfall should be distributed evenly during the season. For fiber, there should always be moisture in the soil in the first 4 weeks.
High temperatures and drought accelerate the maturation of cannabis, causing a decrease in fiber yield and quality. If hemp cultivation is carried out for seed production, at least 4 irrigation should be done because irrigation in the advanced stages of the plants delays maturation, thus increasing the seed yield and quality. In the production of seeds, excessive irrigation delays the harvest and the number of death days.
Cannabis plants remove excess nutrients from the soil. Commercial fertilizers, especially nitrogenous fertilizers, should be applied. In cannabis cultivation, farm manure should be mixed into the soil in autumn. If barn manure is to be given, it is recommended to give 2-4 tons in autumn. In the spring, nitrogenous and phosphorus fertilizers are given with the sowing, and 8-12 kg/da pure nitrogen N per decare and 6-8 kg/da phosphorus-containing superphosphate fertilizer are recommended for commercial fertilization. In hemp, especially superphosphate and ammonium sulfate fertilizers affect the sap and fiber yield positively. When these values are applied, a 30% increase in fiber yield has been achieved.
- Hoeing and Weed Control
One of the most important maintenance jobs of cannabis is hoeing and weed control. The first hoe in hemp should be done at a depth of 15-20 cm in order to control weed and break the cream layer when the plants are 5-10 cm tall. The second hoeing is done when the plants are 30-40 cm tall. However, if the 1st hoeing is done well, the 2nd hoe may not be needed. Hoeing increases the growth of the plant. At the same time, it is fought against weeds and parasitic plants. No dilution is made in cannabis plants.
In the cannabis plant, male and female plants mature at different times from each other. Male plants mature earlier than female plants. The signs of maturity are when the leaves begin to fall off and the stalk turns yellow 5-10 days after the male hemp blooms. This is the best harvest time for male marijuana. During this period, the stems of male plants have the highest fiber quality. In female cannabis, it is necessary to wait 4-5 weeks for the maturation of the plants.
While it causes low fiber yield with perishable fibers in early harvest, pooling of stalks harvested in late harvest becomes difficult and it may not be possible to obtain any fiber. One person can harvest up to 3 times a day by hand. With the machine, 20-25 da can be harvested. Considering that the harvest maturity periods differ according to the male and female plants in cannabis plants, there are different harvest types.
In order to obtain fiber from the cannabis plant, five different methods are applied by pooling. Recently, fiber stripping is also carried out without mechanization pooling in order to reduce labor and cost.
- Biological Pooling
The biological pooling method is based on separating the fiber beams from other tissues of the stem by breaking down the outer pectin of microorganisms. In this process, Bacillus Comesii and Bacillus Felsineus bacteria are used. Biological pooling is done in two ways.
- Pooling in Dew
Although it is the cheapest, it can be applied at any time of the year when the temperature is above 0 C. This method is applied in regions with high relative humidity and occasional rainfall. Hemp stalks are laid on stubble or on mown grass. As a result of the action of temperature, humidity, and microorganisms, the outer pectin is broken down and the fiber is split into beams. This type of pooling can take 1-3 months.
- Water Pooling
It is generally pooling done in isolated and stored stagnant waters. Well pooling is a method applied in wells drilled at 1-1.5 m depth in a suitable location. The modern pooling method on the other hand done in pools made of concrete and in still waters. It is made in streams and by fabrication method. In this method, pooling takes longer than well pooling because the temperature of the water is lower than the still water. Pooling time varies from three days to three weeks.
- Pooling by Fabrication Method
It is a modern pooling method that is applied in specially made pools in the production of quality fiber, especially in the Western European countries Belgium, Sweden, and the Netherlands. This method is not applied in many countries. In fabricated pooling, U-shaped pools with a length of 25-50 meters, a width of 4 meters, and a depth of 2-2.5 meters are used.
Hemp bundles with a diameter of 25-30 cm are placed in the pools by pressing them vertically into the crates. Hemp should be placed with the tip up and the stem part down. The fabrication pooling method is completed within 3-4 days. The temperature of the water to be used should be adjusted to be 18-20 ° C and the pH value to be 5.
- Still Water Pooling
The most common form of this method is well pooling. For this purpose, wells of 1.5-2 m depth, sufficient width, and length are drilled in the soil. Hemp bundles are placed horizontally in the well and pressed with stone. Then the well is filled with water. The pooling period is 4-7 days. Clean fiber cannot be obtained with this method. Concrete pools can be built in order to obtain clean fiber.
- Pooling in Stream
Harvested hemp stalks can also be pooled in streams such as rivers and creeks. Since the water is moving and the temperature is low, pooling in-stream takes much longer than in still water. In the stream, the pooling process is completed in about 1-6 weeks.
- Chemical Pooling
Chemical pooling is mostly done for cottonization. Thus, fiber cells that give short fibers instead of fiber beams are obtained. The chemical pooling method is also called artificial pooling. In this method, a 3% hydrochloric acid bath is used. Although the pooling process is completed in a short time, it is not preferred because it is more expensive. The pooling process is completed in 2-3 days. After pooling, hemp bundles are opened and the stems are dried.
After the pooling process, the bundles are opened and dried for a while. By peeling the bark, the fibers are peeled from the stems by the producers. The fiber yield of dried stalks of cannabis varieties varies between 18-25%. Although technical fibers vary according to processing processes and stem lengths, the length of technical fibers can be obtained up to 2 m.
Single fibers are 1.5-3 cm shorter than hemp fibers. Their thickness is 0.02-0.05 mm. Hemp fiber has less elasticity. The most important feature of hemp fiber is its resistance to moisture and wetness. Hemp fiber can hold up to 30% of its own weight in water without keeping it wet.
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