When it comes produce and other food products, organics are offered in three out of every four conventional grocery stores in the United States. It’s no surprise consumers expect the same quality and transparency with their cannabis products. In order to adopt organic practices for your operation, ARBICO’s Arianna Taylor shares what you need to know to get started.

1. What does “growing organically” mean?

Growing organically means farming without the use of synthetic inputs. It is a method of growing that uses natural products that have been approved by organic resources such as the Organic Materials Review Institute, Washington State Department of Agriculture, CCOF, Oregon Tilth and others. Growing organically embraces the highest definition of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) by utilizing a production system that includes the incorporation of cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promotion of ecological balance and conservation of biological diversity.

Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii

2. What are some benefits of using organic practices?

  • Higher market prices for organic products
  • Customer confidence in organic practices-generally healthier, safer product, not compromised by toxic, noxious, synthetic pesticides
  • Increased soil conservation and fertility
  • Support for a healthy soil biodiversity of microorganisms, fungi and bacteria
  • Reduced residual pesticides and synthetic chemicals
  • Reduced environmental impacts (e.g., pesticide runoff, soil erosion, worker exposure)

3. What are some of the most important steps in developing a strong IPM protocol?

  • Support overall plant health by including fertilizer, soil amendments, enzymes and microorganisms
  • Trap and monitor to become aware of pests within the grow operation
  • Determine thresholds to create appropriate treatment plan
  • Utilize all available cultural control methods to eliminate as much infestation as possible
  • Based on infestation, begin with a knockdown or introducing a biological control agent
  • Biological control agents include generalists such as assassin bugs (Zelus renardii) and specialists like predatory mites, such as Phytoseiulus persimilis
  • Continuity is key to successful control

4. How do you choose the right beneficial insect or predatory mite?

A standard protocol is used for determining which predatory or parasitoid insect works best in each environment. By acknowledging the type of pest(s), the growing conditions (temps, humidity, light hours), the location (indoors vs. outdoors, greenhouse vs. hoop house, etc.), the space being used to grow (square footage or number of plants) and the level of infestation, we match each grower to the appropriate biological solution specifically tailored to their needs.

5. What are some organic practices that can easily be introduced into an indoor cultivation operation?

Be proactive! Cultivate a healthy growing medium. Take a holistic approach to your operation; no part of the plant is more important than the others, this includes the roots. Healthy plants help prevent infestations. Make applications of beneficial insects and mites prior to or at onset of infestation. Create an environment where beneficial insects and predatory mites can thrive and reproduce. Synthetic pesticides should be a last resort.