Soil, pure earthy goodness, rich with nutrients and minerals, but there are goods beyond what the human eye can see. What I’m talking about is the beautiful and diverse population of microorganisms living in the soil. The microbial population can have a significant impact on soil health and plant development. Now that we, the mad scientists have returned from the laboratory to share more knowledge about soil microbes and how they impact cannabis cultivation. In the last article we went over the mighty Bacillus species as an introduction into soil microbes. Now we are going to take it one step further and look into a unique family of bacteria, Streptomyces. They have a never ending list of metabolic functions that provide many benefits to the plants and soil. Streptomyces are the most numerous bacteria in the soil accounting for over 40% of the total population. A truly unique characteristic of this family of bacteria is the smell. It’s earthy just like fresh rain, a scent that dances on the top of your nose. That’s enough admiration for the bacteria, let’s check out what they actually bring to the table.
Plant diseases and pests have caused havoc for some commercial cannabis production. Whether its a disease or a pest you can bet on one thing, it originated from the soil. If the problem starts in the soil you better believe that the solution is there too. A common disease that plagues grow operations everywhere is powdery mildew (PM), everyone has heard about PM, even if you don’t cultivate. What you might not know is that PM is caused by several different species of microorganisms and not just a single agent. This disease is responsible for millions of dollars in damages not only to the cannabis industry but to the agriculture industry as well. PM can spread quickly and once its presence is made it may be too late to save your crop. Taking preventive measures is the best defense for the disease. However, there are a few heavy hitters that can rise to the occasion and defend against PM and associated molds.
Streptomyces griseus is a well known member of the Streptomycetaceae family, which has received recognition for its ability to produce antibiotics, which have antifungal properties. S. griseus produces Streptomycin, one of the first antibiotics used to effectively treat tuberculosis. Not only can these antibiotics benefit humans, they can also be of great use to the plants as well. Establishing S. griseus early in the soil can provide excellent benefits for the plants, including reduced disease pressure. Using S. griseus as a biological to prevent plant disease is a safe and chemical free alternative.
Another member of the family that competes well against PM and other forms of mold is Streptomyces anulantus. These two two bacteria are closely related can work side by side without causing harm to each other. S. anulantus is better associated for dealing with grey mold, caused by the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea another disease that causes significant damage to cannabis.. Although I have yet to purchase any medication that had mold on it, other patients haven’t been as fortunate. A lot of times you won’t know if your flower or extract had mold on it prior to being processed. Another issue that I have noticed as a consumer is the unwelcomed popping noise which can only mean one thing, mites.
Mites are pesky little insects that cause damage to the leaves of the plant. There are variety of different species that infect plants, but they all cause damage the plant in the same fashion. They lay eggs, spread their web and continue to feed on the plants. These tough little varmints are notorious for developing resistance to pesticides and can be very difficult to manage, but have no fear a savior isolated from the soil is here to save the day.
Saccharopolyspora spinosa is a unique bacteria that secretes secondary metabolites known as spinosyns. Spinosyns are shown to have a broad range insecticidal properties. These compounds were isolated and then used to develop insecticides such as spinosad and spinetoram. Don’t let the word insecticide fool you, this is not a harsh synthetic chemical. Sometimes pesticides are dangerous and can be just as harmful as the disease or pest it designed to target. This isn’t the case for S. spinosa and the spinosyns, they are naturally occurring and non-toxic to humans. Incorporating beneficial biologicals as means of disease and pest management fits right in with organic philosophy, providing a safe and sustainable option.
Overall these techniques and practices are much more than just a philosophy, its the way nature intended it to be. The only true solution is prevention. The misinterpretation that a “cure” was needed for a particular disease has lead to the development of harsh chemicals and pesticides. Ultimately leading to the accidental exposure by use and consumption. This isn’t just limited to the cannabis industry, but the agriculture industry as well, affecting our food and water throughout the world. Another reason is that over time pathogens and pests build resistance to these pesticides, resulting in the development of more concentrated and harmful chemicals.
Now that wasn’t too scary was it? It doesn’t take a microbiologist to understand the benefits of soil microbes. Through modern day advancements in technology we are able to utilize nature to its maximum potential. A friendly reminder to cultivators, is to never give up on the things that you cannot see. There are billions and billions of ways to solve a problem, next time we’ll introduce you to a 1,000,000,000 CFUs and more. For now continue to save your SOIL, save your SMOKE, using Streptomyces species.
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