Cannabis growers use different agricultural techniques today, and all of the methods have their benefits and disadvantages. However, the common tendency is eliminating chemical contamination of both the harvest and the environment, as well as ensuring sustainability.
These problems are essential not only to the cannabis growing industry but to the whole agricultural market and home growers as well.
The issues can be solved by applying the no-till farming method. It goes hand in hand with the permaculture technique and creates unique conditions for saving soil health, decreasing wasted energy, and increasing sustainability.
The main principle of no-till farming is leaving the soil undisturbed. It means refusing to add any chemical fertilizers and to perform any mechanical work with the soil. The no-till method is also known as the zero-tillage method as it does not include harrowing, tilling, or plowing.
This way, growers can increase the amount of water that stays in the soil, improve the cycling of nutrients, and even significantly reduce soil erosion, especially in the area with a long dry season. This method allows preserving the natural microorganisms that live in and on the soil, as well as the animals. Without outside interference, the soil remains fertile and sustainable.
Most traditional agricultural practices include constant disturbing of the soil, which equals extra work and money resources spent on growing the harvest. Apart from this, after you disturb the soil, it becomes almost impossible to incorporate the plants you are growing into the ecosystem, and, as a consequence, you need to care more about their safety and health.
In this aspect, no-till farming is very similar to the permaculture method and the organic method of growing, as both of them are based on preserving the natural ecosystem and reducing external disturbance to the growing process.
Growers have learned how to get good results from growing marijuana in a conventional method, but these results do not come for free. These practices require spending lots of efforts and money on irrigation, fuel, labor, machinery, and amending nutrients, which, in most cases, are chemical fertilizers. It turns into a never-ending process of tossing and tilling the soil and adding chemicals to be able to use the soil again.
On the other hand, no-till farming allows growers to pare down their expenses to the minimum when it comes to tillage. Nature will do all the work. This method can increase your harvest as it secures storage capacity, ensures water infiltration, and helps avoid soil erosion.
Growers can also forget about buying expensive and potentially harmful chemicals and stop worrying about pesticides or different kinds of growth regulators. Of course, no-till farming does not mean that you can completely forget about your garden and let it grow on its own. This method also requires some work, but in this case, you can be absolutely sure that your cannabis will be 100% organic with almost no financial input, and next year you will get the same efficiency from the same soil.
Applying the no-till method allows farmers to meet the regulatory demands for the purity of the production and the reduction of environment pollution.
One of the most popular myths that is associated with no-till farming is that it causes heavy pest infestation. There are certain reasons for concern as the conditions of no-till growing are far from sterile. Indeed, in the gardens grown according to the no-till method, there are lots of organisms that are integrated into the ecosystem: mites, worms, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, bacteria, not to mention larger animals and insects. Most of these organisms cause no harm to the cannabis garden; instead, they keep the soil bioavailable. No-till fields usually have more beneficial insects and annelids than other outdoor gardens. The organisms that live in the natural soil help protect the garden from spider mites, mildew, and fungus gnats. However, you can always use companion planting to secure your plants even more.
Another myth about no-till farming claims that this method is not applicable to large fields with cannabis plants and small “backyard” gardens. In fact, one of the benefits of this approach is the possibility to adapt to any conditions: you can use it for growing cannabis in a 3-gallon pot, and it will work with the same effectiveness in a large garden for industrial scale. The success of cultivation with this method does not depend on the size of your garden.
But the biggest fear of the growers that are still in doubt whether to use the no-till method or not is the final harvest. There is a myth that without using chemical fertilizers and without tilling the soil, you will never get the same quality and quantity of yield. In reality, the quantity may indeed differ, however not dramatically, but the quality of the weed that is grown organically is usually the same, if not better, compared to the plants that are stimulated by chemicals. Nature brings out the best of what is programmed in the cannabis genetics.
Furthermore, as for the quantity, studies showed that no-till farming could be more profitable than traditional methods, but only if performed correctly.
A no-till garden is not rocket science; it can be managed even by a newbie grower. Moreover, it is also quite cheap.
Usually, it is enough to get the soil ingredients, such as amendments, natural composts, lava rock or perlite. Mixing those ingredients together is already half the job. Your growing medium is ready. You can also add some cover crops that would eliminate the need for additional amendments.
Alternatively, you can add some plant residue, like leftovers from trimming cannabis or grass clippings, or even mix them together. If you are using the no-till method for the second year, leave the weed residue from the previous year's crop on the field so that it can cool the soil and increase the moisture level. You can simply let it lie and rot on top of the soil attracting the beneficial microorganisms and worms. Alternatively, you can add worms bought in special stores, especially if you use pots. They will help produce fresh compost, eating the decomposing organic materials and creating nutrients for the plants. They also will help keep the root system aerated.
When planting cannabis seeds, make sure you put them into the soil, not into the cover crop or plant residue.
Do not be afraid if the seeds germinate a bit longer than expected. No-till gardens are usually a bit harder to get warm, but, at the same time, it means that they keep water longer.
This practice can be applied by both cannabis farmers and home growers for different reasons. Some may want to invest less money, others want to get a pure organic yield, or maybe you just want to try something new. The no-till method of growing requires some other skills besides the common agricultural practices, but if you use this method correctly, it will provide you with a great result. And who knows, maybe this is exactly where the future of the whole cannabis industry is moving towards.