The trouble with farming cannabis outside of a greenhouse

Published Oct 9, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Muanpare wanpen

You might be wondering why the majority of the large cannabis production facilities that we see use massive greenhouses to get the job done when the plant is often touted as a species that does perfectly well in nature. We can't deny the immense power that nature has to offer us in the way of farming, as we rely on it to cultivate major crops like corn, but there are some pretty big problems that can arise when you try growing weed outdoors.

1. Pests

Greenhouses offer an ideal layer of protection against invading pests that can wreak havoc on a cannabis crop, but when your field is out in the open, it’s a lot easier to find yourself overwhelmed with a devastating issue that is nearly impossible to contain because there are very few approved pesticides that can be used on a consumable good like cannabis. Unfortunately, there is no way around this without the walls of protection, which is why so many farmers choose to avoid growing outdoors.

2. Disease

Pests can travel for miles to take down a cannabis crop, but at least you can see them so you can attempt to intervene before it’s too late for your buds, but when it comes to diseases, there is no way to detect them until they’ve spread far and wide, altering the physical appearance of the plants. Diseased cannabis is contaminated cannabis, which could mean the destruction of an entire crop, and that risk simply isn’t worth the reward to many cannabis producers.

3. Uncontrollable weather

Sure, sunshine and rainfall are completely free and natural, but they are also impossible to control in an outdoor crop. This means that a single cold night could seriously reduce the potency of a crop and that a dry spell could translate to a disaster where bud production is concerned. Then you have to consider other environmental events such as strong wind gusts and prolonged rains that can topple a crop or fill it with mold. None of these things is good for producers or farmers, which is why so many opt for more control and use an indoor facility.

4. Accidental pollination

Most cannabis enthusiasts know that accidental pollination can be devastating to a crop, which is why the only plants that typically make it to full maturity are females, but when you’ve got a crop outdoor, you can’t control where or how this might happen. All it would take is a single rogue male cannabis plant that is within a few miles to turn an entire crop into a seedy mess, damaging both the genetics and any plans that a producer had to sell high-quality products.

5. Theft

Cannabis is a very expensive crop as far as its value, so while corn farmers have to worry about a few cobs adding up to a few dollars stolen by the end of each year, it wouldn’t take much for a producer to lose out on thousands of dollars in one single incident of theft. That’s a major risk, and with no reasonable way to keep intruders out, it’s one that every outdoor cannabis cultivator takes, which is part of why there are so few of them today.

Location is everything

Many of the problems that we’ve mentioned could be solved by carefully selecting a region with an ideal environment, but the reality is that this is inefficient and nearly impossible for most cannabis producers, as they need locations spread out across the country. The most successful outdoor cannabis farm will be in a warm area surrounded by nothing but silence and unused lands, but since doing that would cost so much money and make it more difficult to hire dependable workers, most choose to grow in greenhouses or large production facilities instead.

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