Organic Soils: A Critical Component to Clean Cannabis
Although cannabis and hemp have been grown for thousands of years, in modern times, producing a quality cannabis crop for human consumption requires regulated, controlled conditions right down to the underlying soil in which it's grown. Due to natural processes of the plant, if cannabis cultivators don’t start with superior, organic soils, their crop is doomed to contamination. Understanding the hazards of contaminated soils in cannabis operations begins with understanding the biological functions of the plant, as well as, the environmental dangers lurking beneath their roots.
Phytoremediation – Why Organics Matter
Understanding how soil contaminants can put you or your customers at risk starts with understanding a natural, biological function of the cannabis plant called phytoremediation.
Nature’s Clean Up Mechanism
Phytoremediation is an all-natural chemical clean up process designed by Mother Nature herself. As plants grow they pull chemicals, toxins, and heavy metals from the soil, leaving the earth in better shape than it was before the plant existed. While most plants perform this phenomenon to a certain extent, some plants are better at it than others. A few other plants known for their ability to remediate soil include sunflowers, certain grasses, and even some trees like willow and poplar varieties. However, what happens when consumable plants such as vegetables, herbs, and cannabis remediate soil?
An old adage proclaims, “You are what you eat” – and this couldn’t be more true, even for plants. Just as the plant grows by pulling water and vital nutrients from the soil, it also absorbs chemicals and heavy metals from the ground and water, as well. In addition to receiving the necessary elements for survival, the plants absorb and carry a wide variety of toxins and heavy metals from the soil into their leaves, flowers, and fruits.
While the plant is very tolerant of the toxins and will likely grow to maturity despite the chemical additives, human consumption of contaminated crops could put consumers at risk. Think of it like this – would you eat fish caught near the nuclear fallout at Fukushima, Japan? What about vegetables grown in chemicals like RoundUp? Then why produce or consume cannabis grown in similar conditions?
Essentially, hemp and cannabis plants grown in dirty soils become the “dirty bar rag” of plants – definitely not something you’d want to consume.
Examples of Purposeful Phytoremediation
Farmers, scientists, and environmentalists are actively using hemp all over the world as an all-natural, solar-powered, soil cleaning powerhouse.
In the early 1990’s researchers started experimenting with hemp as a remediator of contaminated soils at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site. Today, hemp still grows on the site and continues to absorb the radioactive elements from the earth.
Immediately following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, people started planting sunflowers and mustard seeds to help pull the cesium from the soils. Unfortunately, due to laws enacted by Americans in 1948, hemp cultivation in Japan is still illegal except by licensed producers.
Additionally, farmers in Italy are using hemp to clean up dioxin found in the soil on their farm. The poison leached into the grounds due to a nearby steel factory. So, when the government discovered the sheep raised on the farm were tainted with the substance, the entire flock had to be destroyed. Now, the owners are hoping to clean up the land with hemp.
Avoiding Environmental Hazards
The US has more than 30,000 known toxic sites. In fact, most of the soil in the United States is contaminated. In urban areas, overpopulation and high traffic mean soils may contain radon, asbestos, lead, petroleum byproducts, and most commonly, pesticides. However, even less populated areas are susceptible to dangerous, even deadly, soil pollutants.
Industries like farming, manufacturing, and land development spent decades contributing to the toxins found in our soil, water, and air. Dense soils can act like a sponge absorbing these toxins, while other soils such as sandy, coarse soils act more like a filter, allowing some of these pollutants to pass into the groundwater below.
Common Contaminant Sources
While there are naturally occurring contaminants, most frequently, pollution in soil is due to industrial and human-made pollutants.
Fossil fuel pollutants come from power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, as well as, manufacturing facilities. Additionally, shipping and aircraft, as well as, automobiles also contribute to soil contamination. Increased vehicle traffic means increased emissions as well as increased chemical fluid leaks.
Poor Farming Practices
Not realizing the health risks, before the 1950’s, pesticides were primarily composed of lead-arsenate. Six decades later, many of those contaminants still linger today. Additionally, overuse of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides in modern farming practices continue to contribute to the problem.
As humans living in a material world, we produce trash and a lot of it. As such, a growing number of junkyards and landfills contribute to high-risk soil pollutants. These sites often contain lead, arsenic, and oil-based products which seep into the soil and groundwater.
Even Our Homes
Construction sites generally produce contamination. Housing developments and urban sprawl create unlimited opportunity for this type of ground pollution. However, even existing homes may pose a significant risk. Lead-based paints used on house exteriors before 1979 chip off and fall into the soil below. In addition, asphalt roofing shingles, as well as, lawn chemicals and pest control products introduce toxins to our immediate environment.
Common Contaminants and their Hazards
While many of these contaminants may occur naturally, the sources above are causing an exponential increase of these toxins in our environment.
Lead – a poisonous heavy metal; lead is known to cause brain damage, as well as damage the kidneys and even cause death. Lead is prevalent in US soils and water.
Cadmium – another toxic metal, cadmium gets introduced to the soil through phosphate fertilizers, iron and steel factories, and burning fossil fuels. Cadmium is linked to the development of multiple types of cancer.
Nickel – classified as a carcinogen, ingesting or inhaling this metal is linked to cancers and respiratory tumors.
Mercury – another metal which causes damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and is associated with several diseases.
Chromium – this chemical element found in many modern applications is toxic to the blood, causing kidney and liver failure, and is linked to cancer as well.
Arsenic – a poison which can cause severe health issues including death.
Pesticide Residue – clearly class action lawsuits against Monsanto for glyphosphates and certain cancers should be enough to cause concern about pesticide use and other agrochemicals.
Just as we are starting to learn the importance of organic growing conditions for our fruits and vegetables, cannabis and hemp are also produced in soils and must be appropriately cultivated when used as a dietary supplement or natural health remedy.
Redbud Soil - We do more than just dirt
You wouldn’t build a house without starting on a firm foundation, so when quality matters in your crops – whether you’re growing cannabis or cucumbers – it is essential to begin with an organic, high-quality soil you can trust.
At Redbud, we make small batch craft soil designed for optimal performance in no-till applications. We provide custom blended soils, composts, and soil amendments suited to your crop. Additionally, we can help with natural, organic integrated pest management to help you keep your crops organic from seed to harvest.
But Wait… that’s not all!
Our team also has a wide range of experience in the sales and installation of indoor grow equipment to assist you in creating the most efficient and practical organic, cultivation facility. From framing the building to equipping your grow to maximize results, the skilled staff at Redbud Soil are ready to help you ensure the best crop possible.
Redbud Soil Company, located in Oklahoma City, OK, is your trusted partner in getting your grow started off on the right foot. Contact us today to learn how we can help ensure your crops are as clean and natural as you intend them to be.