Just ask marijuana growers in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and other parts of the West: Climate change is real, and it’s impacting marijuana growers everywhere.
Big Buds grow team member Alan is a professional indoor cannabis grower near Vancouver, Canada.
This summer, the neighboring forests are burning fiercely, with some of the worst wildfires in British Columbia since 1958. More than 160 fires continue to scorch the province, and as of early August, the fires had burned around 1 million acres.
“The air is worse than Beijing,” Alan reports. “You have to walk around wearing a filter mask. Especially for outdoor growers, it’s a total disaster.”
Fire is burning tens of thousands of outdoor marijuana plants in legal and black market grow ops, Alan claims.
“The marijuana plants that don’t get burned are covered in soot and ash, and they’re not getting any sunshine because of the clouds of smoke covering our entire province,” he explains, adding that intense heat and lack of rain is endangering and killing plants.
Another problem for outdoor growers is there are so many fire crews in the woods, they’re discovering cannabis gardens and eliminating them.
Alan says climate change and the wildfires it brings is not just bad news for outdoor grows, but is greatly affecting his indoor grow ops as well.
“It never used to get more than about 75°F in this province in the summer, and we had rain and cool breezes … to keep the heat down. Most of the homes and buildings were built with that climate in mind. Some don’t even have air conditioning. Or if they do, it was designed for the cooler climate we used to have. Now we’re seeing temperatures in the 90s. It sucks,” he adds.
Alan has 7000 watts of indoor grow lighting. Until a few years ago, he grew every month of the year.
Nowadays, he knows that if he runs a summer grow op, he incurs several serious risks that threaten the health of his marijuana plants.
His air conditioning equipment can’t keep his grow op cool enough because the excessively hot outdoor air temperatures combined with the heat from 7000 watts of indoor grow lights are too much for his AC system to handle.
And then there’s the risk that polluted air brings.
Alan had to increase intake filtration and grow-room scrubber capacity to keep the soot and ash from permeating his indoor space.
Marijuana plants breathe through their leaves, so whether your plants are outdoors or indoors, if particulates coat the leaves, the plants suffocate.
Yet another climate change impact is the interruption of normal municipal services, such as reliable electricity and water supplies caused by major fires and other natural cataclysms.
Marijuana growers in the B.C. region have seen a grow op season interrupted by evacuation orders, imminent fire danger, utility shutoffs, floods and other disaster-related upheavals.
The same can happen to growers who live where tornadoes, strong thunderstorms and hurricanes tend to strike and are intensified by climate change.
Some of these threats can’t be mitigated, but there are tactics that can help you prepare for and survive fires and other climate-change-related threats:
- Armor your plants from start to finish of their life cycle by using potassium silicate.
- Provide vitamin B complex to your plants, which helps them deal with stress.
- Install extra microfiltration intake and in-room air scrubbing capacity.
- Have a backup generator sufficient to power your grow lights, fans and air conditioner.
- Have an emergency evacuation plan that allows you to quickly move your plants to a safe location, preferably one that has grow lights and air conditioning.
- Consider excavating or retrofitting a disaster-hardened basement or other underground grow op. These can survive fires and other problems better than grow ops aboveground.
- Have large tanks where you store many gallons of reverse osmosis water.
- If you’re growing marijuana outdoors, use powerful foliar spraying to wash particulates off leaves.
- Foliar spray your plants with a combination of potassium silicate and vitamin B complex, and your hydroponics base nutrient at 5.7 pH and 140 parts per million. Only do this 2–3 times per week, max.
- Install an emergency-hardened exterior and interior sprinkler system.
Of course, climate change is a global issue, and we care about it not just because it can harm our marijuana plants.
To fight rising temperatures, do everything possible to decrease your use of fossil fuels. This might involve certain sacrifices, such as giving up your toys like Jet Skis, boats, ATVs, and other gas-guzzling machinery and vehicles.
It also involves proactive choices, such as installing solar panels and other energy-efficient technology, using LEDs instead of HIDs as grow lights, and investing in an electric vehicle.
Growing in summer is difficult in most places, with or without the added threat of climate change.
“If the summers continue to be like they are, I’ll probably have to move away,” Alan says. “I never thought climate change impacts would be so real for me.”