Have you ever put a lot of time, work and personal energy into something only to watch all that hard work wither away? Every crop that you grow as a commercial grower is maximized and pushed to its fullest potential in the name of production and yields which means the crop is often on a thin edge of going from good to bad in a short time.
It all starts with understanding how each strain grows and how you set up your grow operation to begin with. For example, hydroponic growing methods result in fast and productive growth. However, that comes with a cost of constant babysitting your inputs to ensure everything is just right. In a hydroponic setting things can go from really good to really bad in just a day’s time frame. Selecting a more forgivable growing medium can really reduce human stress and give the grower a much larger buffer and reaction time. Growing in soilless medium such as peat moss gives the grower much more reaction time and allows for mistakes to happen with much less immediate, severe consequences.
Knowledge, Testing and Time
Knowing how each strain grows only comes with time. Growing that strain over and over, time and time again in different growing locations of your farm really is the only way to truly understand how that strain reacts to different situations. Some strains are very hardy and handle variations quite well, then others will stress out from simply being moved from one type of LED veg light to another. Knowing what stresses each strain is critical in being able to plan ahead in order to make the best management decisions for that strain. Keeping things consistent is a big help in ensuring plant health. Growing the same strain in the same space over and over really helps the grower fine tune that grow space and inputs to the strain.
Monitoring your feed inputs and environment are key factors in preventing loss. Monitoring and taking measurements of the feed put into each group of plants daily truly helps the grower know if a problem is building long before the plants show signs of health issues. By collecting samples of the fertilized water that is fed to each group of plants, a grower can measure things like EC, PPMs, PH, water temperature etc. These readings alone can give the grower a really good heads up about the crop and can start making adjustments oftentimes before the crop starts to show signs of stress. In a soilless medium there is about a one-week lag from the time the crop gets an undesirable feed formula to the time it starts to show symptoms. Even at that, one day of a bad feed formula isn’t enough to harm the plant, this has to happen for several days in a row.
Monitoring light levels, temperature, humidity and VPD levels are all critical in maintaining plant health as well and should be monitored several times a day to catch problems as soon as possible. Investing in an environment monitoring system that can send the grower alerts when environment readings are outside of their desired levels really plays another big role in preventing the loss of a crop and also reduces the stress of the grower.
For growers that have large cultivation facilities with many rooms and stages of plant growth the best thing they can do for themselves is to scout the crops regularly. At least twice a week at the minimum, walk through the growing areas of each stage of the crops and look for deficiencies, pests and or poor growing characteristics. This not only helps the grower see problems early on, but also helps the grower stay connected with the crops they are growing.
Equipment, the usually overlooked and under maintained piece of the puzzle that is yet one more key area to preventing crop failure. The equipment that supports an indoor crop and even in outdoor settings usually is the last thing on a growers mind when they are head deep in a sea of green plants. However, equipment is one of the most important factors in keeping the crops nice and healthy. Developing a preventive maintenance schedule ensuring that the dehumidifiers, the air conditioners, the water treatment system, pumps, fans etc. are all operating at peak efficiency will drastically reduce the chances of a crop failure. Replacing belts, pulleys, checking the charge on cooling and dehumidification systems all will ensure that the equipment is running smoothly and much less likely to break down at the worst possible time.
In the end, what growers should do to prevent a crop loss depends greatly on the growing conditions and how dedicated the grower is to thinking ahead and planning for the “not if something will go wrong, but when something will go wrong” scenario and having a plan in place to head those scenarios off before they become really big problems.