Grants Pass, OR
Working with cannabis can often feel more like a desk job than farming. It’s a whole lot of marketing, compliance and paperwork, leaving me longing for time with the plants. This is one of the reasons I’m so excited about our involvement in a research project with a state university in Oregon. The study seeks to illuminate the relationship between terroir and cannabis, focusing specifically on the influence of soil on cannabis in Southern Oregon. (Note: The university will not be handling any cannabis plants or flower. It will be analyzing the data collected by the testing labs and our farm.)
Terroir is the characteristic flavor imparted to a specific crop by the environmental factors in which it is produced. Perhaps you have heard this term referenced when hearing people speak of wine or cheese. Although well established in viticulture, the effects of terroir on cannabis are not well understood. We are in the beginning phases of the project and have begun soil collection and bed prep.
Over the past weeks, we have spent hours driving around Southern Oregon, collecting yards of native, unamended soil from several locations. It’s interesting to see all the variances in soil from our unique regions. The different soil types are housed in raised beds and completely separated from one another and the native soil on our land. We are growing two different clonal varieties, which we have chosen for genetic stability. Three clones of each variety are planted in the collected soil types.
We are aiming to isolate the effects of the soil on plant chemistry and cannabinoid content while eliminating other environmental variables, such as different growing methodologies, duration and intensity of sun exposure, wind and harvest time, as well as drying time and curing methods. I am looking forward to observing these plants grow side-by-side throughout the season, to potentially see the difference in the plant’s morphology from one soil type to the next. Even more exciting is the anticipation of seeing the finished flower.
One of Alter Farms’ responsibilities will be to thoroughly document all farming techniques, including watering, pruning, supporting, etc. So, I guess I will still be doing some paperwork. University researchers will come to the farm to collect soil for testing, with an analysis done by different soil labs and the university. The study will analyze soil both before planting and after maturation. Mature plants will be sampled to see terpene and cannabinoid concentrations, as well as statistical analysis to demonstrate relationships between soil and plant chemistry, if there is any.
In my two decades of growing cannabis, I have personally witnessed significant differences in finished flower from one location to the next. Those variances were mainly seen in bud structure, density and aroma. But those came not only from different areas but also from very different growing techniques, curing methods and fertilizer inputs. I’m quite anxious to see if there will be a noticeable difference in the taste and aroma and a quantifiable difference in terpene and cannabinoids when the only variable is unamended, native soils from Southern Oregon.
This project will take many volunteer hours and great diligence, and along with all that will be learned, there is great hope that this information will give craft farmers a competitive edge in the shadow of cannabis commercialization.