Medpot Minstrel: Hydroponics Medical Marijuana

Thursday, June 21, 2007

LEDs and Digital Dialog Between Plant and Grower

It’s official! I have selected 6 female plants to fill the buckets of my ebb and flow hydroponic medpot producing system. If you have read my posting last week, then you know that I used the black paper bag method in order to force a lower branch of each plant into pre-flowering.

By covering the branch with a light-proof bag on a 12/12 basis regularly for a week, tiny protrusions began to grow at the junctions of the branch to the main stem. Using a magnifying glass I identified these pre-flowers as either male or female, or in two cases—both.

Hermies are an abnormality, where a single marijuana plant has the characteristics of both male and female. They are considered a problem, because the process is irreversible. Also, growers who propagate new plants using clones know that hermies might pass on this characteristic through their clones, so they avoid them.

So out of 15 cannabis plants in week 4 of their vegetative growth, 7 turned out to be female, 6 are male, and 2 are hermies. The hardest part was choosing the six healthiest looking ones from the seven females. It broke my heart (since they all looked bushy and healthy) but I said goodbye to one of them and passed her along with the rest of the plants to a fellow medpot patient.

My friend is not able to physically perform the tasks necessary to manage a hydro grow, so I put the extras into pots with a perlite soil mixture and delivered them to him. He was very grateful. An attendant comes once a day to help him with his chores, which include watering his medpot plants under a grow light.

My six chosen sinsemilla ladies are proudly growing in my baked clay pebble-filled buckets, with the black bags removed. I will leave them vegging for four weeks more, before I administer Bud Blood and change their lighting regimen to 12-12.

Speaking of lighting, I just read a study published by the University of Minnesota, entitled “LED’s: New Lighting Alternatives for Greenhouses.” I found it truly amazing!

If you just woke up from a 20-year coma, LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes. The technology is not new. Edison took out a patent on a certain kind of diode, but he didn’t follow through with it. The first radio set was built with a crystal diode. And wasn’t there a punk band in the late seventies called The Diodes? Anyway, LED displays are everywhere, from your laptop to your cell phone. You can’t escape digital technology.

The new part is that I couldn’t ever imagine that the light emitted in this way could ever compete with the intense light of an HID lamp. Yet, according to this U. of M. study it not only can, but it grew taller plants than its High Pressure Sodium competition.

Light Emitting Diodes are defined in Wikipedia. They are crystal semiconductors, allowing a charge to pass only in one direction. For a more detailed explanation, go to the website.

In all fairness to HPS technology, the study was slightly flawed. The ventilation system for the HID light wasn’t set up in time, so the intense heat could have shut down photosynthesis in the plants for a time, causing slower growth.

One of the great advantages of an LED lighting kit (consists of a bunch of blue and red bulbs) is that it hardly generates any heat at all. The other great advantage is the energy saved. In this age of trying to minimize carbon emissions, LED lighting wins hands down.

The cost differential has to be taken into account. The LED kit will run you around $1,700, while the 400W HPS it competed against only costs $400. But over a seven year period the savings with the LED add up to over $2500, while the HPS costs $130 per month to run. Not to mention how many times the bulb has to be replaced in that time.

As I look around my grow room, more and more of my equipment is digital. My ballast (the LED kit doesn’t need one) is a new electronic one that replaced my old clunker, that was a fire hazard (there is no danger of fire with LED’s!).

My timing devices, my pH and EC meters, my electronic scales, are all digital. A computer-savvy friend installed a logarithm-based program in a desktop. This computer was set aside for the purpose of controlling my ebb and flow pump, the 600W HPS light, the intake and exhaust fans, the ozone generator next door, and the radiator-style oil heaters that maintain an adequately warm temperature in the room through the winters.

So am I going to rush out and buy an LED kit to replace my HPS? Not anytime soon. I think I’ll wait until they come down in price. And that might happen sooner than we think, since I’ve noticed on the web that there are some very aggressive young companies marketing this new technology for horticultural purposes.

As I mixed up this week’s nutrient solution, I made sure to mix the Barricade in warm water the night before and I shook it really well. Then I added Sensi Grow A & B in the appropriate quantity for week 5 of vegging?

How did I know the right amount to add? Why I looked it up digitally on my laptop on the Advanced Nutrients website. Their Nutrient Calculator will figure out the exact amount of each ingredient you need, depending on the size of your reservoir.

I wanted to add Seaweed Extract in addition to the regular ingredients this week, so I used my digital calculator to figure out how much to add and by how much I had to reduce some other items by in order not to upset the suggested EC (1.71) and the PPM (1200) for the week.

I read in the Advancedpedia that it’s all right to spray with Colossal Bud Blast during the vegetative stage, so I decided to do so. Cannabis plants take in nourishment not just through their roots, but also through the leaves. So I factored in the amount of extra food I was giving them in terms of their weekly total intake.

Even though no root colonizers are used during weeks 4, 5, and 6 of veg, the Nute Calc does call for 450 mL of Sensi Zym to be administered during week 5.

Not only do they have digital vaporizers now, which regulate the heating pad to stabilize the temperature (thus ensuring a steady stream of good-tasting vapor) but in a year’s time I might be able to put a chip smaller than a postage stamp on my cannabis leaves and it will signal when the plant gets thirsty and wants some water or food.

A Colorado high-tech company has exclusive rights to a device developed at the University of Colorado that lets a plant interface with the digital world. It can tell a water valve to open or a feeding pump to activate.

It will be considerably more sensitive than presently available monitoring devices.


posted by Wes @ 7:51 PM

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