Let's talk about why Cannabis loves consistency and how to accomplish this even as a homegrower.
In the cannabis industry, consistency is an evident problem for both suppliers and consumers. Cannabis may be a plant, but cannabis products are considered consumer packaged goods (CPG). Consumers expect the same experience each time they use the product. Brands expect their cultivators to produce consistent cannabis yields as a result. How can that be guaranteed with so many variables in play? With the right tools at a cultivator’s disposal, achieving desirable results is in reach.
Why is consistency important in cannabis cultivation?
Cannabis is no exception to consumers’ expectations for consistency, and the fickle nature of cannabis cultivation makes this even more pressing. Hundreds of cultivars are available, each with a differing chemical profile that shapes consumers’ experience. One small change to a crop of Bubba Kush or White Widow, and the consumer experience may be completely different from the one before.
This plays into brand loyalty as well. If a consumer discovers and enjoys a product, they’re likely to return time and again, just like the do with their favorite shampoo, snack, or shoes. Any unexpected or negative experience attributable to an inconsistent yield can turn away a customer for good. As a result, business partners want to work with cultivators who have a proven track record for stable phytocannabinoid and terpene profiles and percentages.
Which factors result in inconsistent strain yields?
Two major players have an impact on the consistency of any given cultivar or strain: genetics (including genotype and phenotype) and environment.
Genotype and phenotype
All plants, including cannabis plants, can be defined by their genotype and phenotype.
A genotype is the plant’s genetic makeup, also known as its cultivar or strain. The effect a cultivar may have on the consumer is due to its genotype. No genotype is the same; they are looked at as “siblings” rather than “identical twins.”
Cannabis strains contain phytocannabinoid chemicals such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which are believed to interact with the mammalian endocannabinoid system (ECS). Strains like Blue Dream and Purple Punch are known to be reliable, meaning their cannabinoid levels mostly stay the same, while strains like Pineapple Express and Durban Poison can be unreliable, showing great variability in their chemical makeup. Cannabinoids are vital in consistent, high-quality cannabis.
A phenotype is the physical expression of a genotype, meaning it’s a result of the interaction of the genotype and its environment. When cultivars are described as sativa or as indica, those terms refer to the plant’s physical appearance. Phenotypes have great variability based on environmental conditions. Sativa cultivars appear tall and stalky; indica cultivars typically are short and bushy. Hybrids express traits from both parent plants and may favor one over the other.
This is all to say that when it comes to cannabis, the plant’s appearance is distinct from its effect once consumed. You may buy the same cultivar and it may be completely different due to natural fluctuations in its genotype. A 2015 study published in PLOS One confirmed this, noting “marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity.”
So how do we know what strains are reliable? No strain name is perfectly reliable. Checking chemical profiles and phenotypes are ways to ensure how consistent your strain will be.
Just like all other plants, cannabis and hemp can thrive (or fail to thrive) because of the environment. Light, temperature, humidity, and nutrients, among other factors, shape how cannabis and hemp develop at each crucial stage. This is called atmospheric variability.
Naturally, cannabis and hemp are prone to variances as the plant develops — just like any other crop. Precisely what works and what doesn’t is an exact process that cultivators have dedicated years to perfecting. The correct relative humidity, amount of light, soil, and watering schedule (among other details) are essential parts of the equation. Any changes to these factors and the affected cultivar may develop quite differently from what the grower intended. These factors are even more difficult to control and monitor as a facility expands.