By John Sajo
Exec. Dir. Umpqua Cannabis Association
Every marijuana grower knows that marijuana plants make flowers when days are short and nights are long. This happens naturally outside as summer moves into fall. Indoor growers merely change a timer to 12 hours of light and about eight weeks later they will have finished buds.
Outdoors, it is a bit more complicated. Light deprivation (light dep) is a term used to describe limiting the hours of lights outdoor marijuana plants receive in order to make them flower. This simple process will revolutionize the way marijuana is grown. Growers must block the sunlight with black plastic for several hours each day so that plants only receive 12 hours of light. Some expensive greenhouses will do this automatically or growers can try various DIY systems. Light dep requires doing a chore twice a day but the results are well worth it.
There are lots of reasons why light dep makes sense:
1) Using light dep techniques, outdoor and greenhouse growers can get multiple crops per season.
2) Using light dep, outdoor growers can almost match indoor production, but at a fraction of the cost. A building is not necessary, ventilation is easier and savings on electrical bills are huge.
3) Plants that bud outside in the middle of the summer will produce better quality flowers. The weather is consistently better in July than in October. It is warmer and drier so there are fewer problems with mold and mildew. The sun is higher in the sky so surrounding trees and other obstacles provide less shading. Less UV light is blocked at the higher sun angles.
4) For OLCC growers, limited by canopy area but not by the number of immature plants, it means that you can have big veg plants ready to go into bud and harvest from a given area every two months instead of just once. OLCC growers won’t have to grow giant plants like medical growers are forced to. OLCC growers will be able to fill greenhouses with more smaller plants and bud them whenever they need to using light dep. Outdoor yields with light dep will be double or triple yields that depend on natural day length.
5) For households limited to four plants and eight ounces, producing enough flower to last a year is easy, but storing a single harvest to last a year is legally challenging. By using light dep you can have two or three harvests each summer, which makes it easier to produce enough for your own use but not go over the eight ounce weight limit.
6) Light dep might save the planet. Portland General Electric estimates that virtually all the expected increase in demand for electricity in Oregon will come from indoor marijuana cultivation. Over the next few decades this could mean Oregon needs new power-generating capacity and everyone’s electric bill will go up. We didn’t legalize marijuana so we could fry the planet with electricity.
People started growing in basements and warehouses because prohibition made hiding necessary. Now that prohibition is ending, farmers should gravitate toward the least expensive and most productive techniques. Light dep is the future for marijuana.
John Sajo is a marijuana farmer and activist who has been using light dep techniques for over 10 years.