Aside from pleasantly distinctive aromas and flavors, terpenes lend medicinal and therapeutic benefits — along with potential entourage effects — to significantly improve your cannabis experience.
Where do terpenes come from, and why are they important?
Terpenes are present in practically all plant life, serving a variety of purposes including the aid of maturation, attracting biotic pollination vectors such as bees or birds, and keeping predators at bay. In cannabis' case, terpenes are secreted by specialized cells in the plant's trichomes alongside cannabinoids, flavonoids and other compounds.
The single most important reason terpenes should matter to growers is that prospective buyers, be they seasoned budtenders or casual consumers, are greatly influenced by the simple act of holding flower or bud up to their faces and inhaling deeply. Any grower whose strains can make a great first impression is already halfway down the road to success.
Hobbyists growing for personal consumption also stand to benefit from better yields if targeting specific terpenes. Cannabinol (CBN), for example, is shown in some studies to be an effective treatment for sleeplessness and potent antibacterial agent.
In this post, we go over simple and effective methods you can use to get consistently better terpene levels when cultivating cannabis. Whether you're growing for yourself or hoping to grow professionally in the future, more terpenes always means better weed.
Using Proper Soil & Nutrients
Let's start with the most obvious factor in a given cannabis strain's terpene levels. If you want large, dense buds laden with terpenes, proper use, timing and delivery of nutrients is key.
Varying levels of carbohydrates, for example, are required throughout cannabis' life cycle — and are most influential halfway through the blooming stage. The timing of a nutrient schedule can also be manipulated to encourage cannabis plants to produce more of their own sugars. In order to avoid diminished terpene yields and hampered growth, nitrogen should be cut off during the last two weeks of the flowering stage.
While it's common for a starting DIYer to try their hand at aqua- or hydroponic setups, soil is always best when growing cannabis. This is due to the simple reason that soil is native to the plant, and is therefore most effective at maintaining its ideal alkaline and pH levels for optimal nutrient absorption. Good soil won't just steadily supply your cannabis plants with important minerals and nutrients; it'll maximize its ability to utilize and benefit from them as well.
The Importance of Plant Training & Harvest Technique
As in any enterprise with the potential to blossom into a full-blown business, attention to detail is what separates sub-par products from valuable stock. To grow superior cannabis with impressive resin and terpene levels, it pays to take a hands-on approach in the growing process.
Low-stress training can pay dividends in the long run provided you apply the correct amount of stress without overshooting. Examples of safe stress training include branch pinching, pruning low-priority branches during the flowering stage (thereby concentrating plant nutrients and resources on actual flowering sites) and repositioning branches that could use more exposure to light.
In order to avoid harvesting cannabis too early or too late — both of which have disastrous effects on trichome turnout — it's important to have a reliable harvest indicator to go by. Luckily trichomes take on distinctive appearances throughout their development cycle, changing from transparent to opaque before finally turning an impressive shade of deep red, or amber. This progression is easy to keep track of using a magnifying glass, and marks the perfect time to harvest your cannabis plants for optimal terpene yields.
Promoting Growth with Positive External Factors
Any serious grower understands that it's necessary to invest in proper equipment in order to achieve consistently high-quality crop harvests. Let's look at two of the most important tools DIYers can use to get better terpene levels in cannabis.
Use a humidifier or dehumidifier (depending on your regional climate) to keep a consistent 30% humidity during the flowering stage. This prevents issues caused by excess humidity such as the development of mold, or stunted development due to dry growing conditions. On the other hand, higher humidity levels (approximately 40-55%) are shown to increase terpene levels during the bud "curing" or drying stage.
Aside from producing the bulk of the cannabis plant's primary and secondary compounds, top trichomes also serve to protect the plant from overexposure to light. If you're growing indoors, use UV-B lights for 2-3 weeks to encourage trichome growth during the flowering stage, in turn increasing terpene production.
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