Biodiversity is Critical for Cannabis
Monoculture vs. Biodiversity
Monoculture cropping, the practice of growing the same crop in the same plot year over year, has a variety of negative ecosystem impacts. Monoculture cropping reduces nutrients in the soil, leads to increased pest pressure, and increases the risk of plant pathogens and diseases. To combat these risks, many conventional farms rely on synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to feed their plants and reduce pest populations.
But growing cannabis in a way that relies on dangerous pesticides is uniquely dangerous to consumers. Cannabis is often consumed in its concentrated form, but THC isn’t the only thing that becomes more potent during the extraction process. Pesticides stay in the final product, concentrate just like THC, and are expensive to remove.
Luckily, there is an alternative way to grow that is safer for consumers and the planet.
At Walden, we work with nature, rather than trying to control it. Cultivating a biodiverse ecosystem reduces the need for chemical pesticides, slows erosion, improves soil fertility, and even sequesters CO2! Read on for a broad overview of how things work around our farm. In subsequent blog posts, we hope to get more into the nitty-gritty for those of you who like to nerd out about this stuff.
Crop Rotation and Cover Cropping
Whenever we grow a crop, the plants draw nutrients from the soil. These nutrients need to be replenished. While conventional farming often relies on synthetic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers to return nutrients and battle weeds, we instead turn to crops that can fix and scavenge nutrients from the atmosphere and deep within the soil to increase biodiversity and soil fertility. These cover crops also choke out weeds and cover bare soil, eliminating the need for herbicides while sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere.
Rotating crops improves soil stability and reduces erosion by alternating between crops with deep and shallow roots. It reduces the need for pesticides by regularly eliminating the food source of pests, and naturally replenishes nutrients in the soil. This in turn lessens carbon emissions by curtailing the need to truck in large amounts of soil and amendments.
If something is not eating your plants, then your garden is not part of the ecosystem. The key is to encourage an ecosystem where the pests that prey on your prized plants are also being eaten.
Think of an insectary bed kind of like an “insect hotel”. Planted between rows, these plants attract beneficial insects that keep pests under control, naturally. The key to this strategy is to have… you guessed it! Biodiversity! Different species of flowers attract different predators insects which all prey on different pests. Furthermore, when flowers bloom at different times, predatory insects stick around for the entire season. Biodiversity begets biodiversity, which keeps a garden happy without chemical controls.
If you look closely at the image below on the left, you may be able to pick out the dramtically crimson amaranth, delicate white flowers of sweet alyssum, and giant sunflowers. Plants like these aren’t just beautiful, they also attract predators like the praying mantis, a carnivorous insect that you can see munching on a grasshopper in the video below.
Bat Boxes and Kestrel Habitat
Stay tuned for more updates about our sustainability initiatives as we expand, grow, and invest in ecologically responsible infrastructure. And for those of you who prefer to follow along on social media, feel free to follow us on Instagram or Twitter @waldencannabis.