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A three-phase program, in conjunction with BC Bud Depot, is currently underway to test the benefits of growing cannabis in zeolite-enriched soils. BC Bud Depot’s test facility features 14,920 square feet of greenhouse space capable of housing 1,900 cannabis plants up to 2.5 meters each.
Phase One is intended to determine if the filtration and aeration capacity of zeolite has potential to reduce soil-borne pests and illnesses by reducing non-beneficial bacteria, fungal spores and other microbes, insects and chemicals present in the growth medium. Testing will also monitor chemical composition and microbe biology of root zone growth media and liquid runoff. Comparative data will enumerate differences between zeolite-fortified groups and control groups consisting of standard coco coir and peat-based potting mixtures. Testing is designed to measure the impacts of zeolite’s filtration and retention capacity on the overall fertility and properties of cannabis growth media.
Microbial analysis adhering to verifiable scientific practices and internationally recognized methods at MB Labs Ltd facilities in Saanich BC will measure growth media and liquid runoff for the presence of algae and protozoa, fungi, yeasts and bacteria. Dynamic Ecoystems Crop Protection of Salt Spring Island will conduct entomological inventories to detect estimated population variances of soil-born insect pests between control and zeolite test groups.
MB Labs will also test growth media and liquid runoff samples for a range of fertility factors including Nitrogen PH, (TKN), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Organic Matter, Major and Minor Elements including Boron, Cadmium, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Zinc, Conductivity (Salinity) and Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio. Of interest is whether zeolite confers upon growth media an increased capacity to retain beneficial nutrients and to act as a buffer against leaching and soil acidification.
The cannabis-certified MB Labs laboratory will also analyze finished marijuana samples for total potency, terpenes, flavonoids and contaminants following the field study.
Approximately 900 cloned cuttings of the cannabis strain CBD God will be transplanted into growth media divided between control groups and those enriched with zeolite and compatible nutrients. The facility’s on-site plantation manager, biologist Albert Kasprowicz, M.Sc., will oversee testing.
Testing to commence this week will take ongoing measurements from three categories plus a control group. The three test categories (Zeolite-Enriched, Carbon-Enriched and Zeolite + Carbon-Enriched) each subdivide into three groups according to increments of enrichment to the base potting mixture. The T-Carbon is from Ashburton’s collaboration partners ZMM Canada Minerals Corp and is complimentary to zeolite in the root zone.
For the Zeolite-Enriched and Carbon-Enriched groups, researchers will distribute plant sets containing 5%, 10% and 15% enrichment throughout the greenhouse. The Zeolite + Carbon group containing a 1:1 blend of carbon and zeolite will be enriched at 10%, 15% and 20% and similarly distributed. The Control Group will contain only the base potting mixture which consists of 90% coconut husk (coco coir) and 10% worm castings.
Initial laboratory results have been publishedA second round of samples is now in possession of MB Labs in Sidney, BC, for laboratory analysis to expand the data set from liquid runoff captured from cannabis plants involved in the study.
As the final set of liquid runoff samples are analyzed, the study team is collecting samples of substrate from the root zone, and samples of plant tissue from leaf material for submission to MB Labs this week.
With plants scheduled for harvest in one week, the cannabis-zeolite study now enters a critical phase in both the greenhouse and laboratory. Results will be posted on the Ashburton website as they become available.
The third phase of the program will determine zeolite’s capacity to increase end yields of marijuana.