Terpenes are all the craze in cannabis right now. We recently discovered that terpenes, not cannabinoids, are largely responsible for what kind of high we experience. Sleepy, energetic or creative highs—these differences are the result of THC working in tandem with terpenes.
Terpenes are aromatic compounds responsible for the smells, flavors and other health benefits conferred by cannabis. The “skunky” scent we love from buds, the “citrus” quality we sense from certain sativas, and so on, are the result of the terpenes. We find terpenes in every fruit or vegetable, whether lemons, berries or carrots. Terpenes are largely responsible for many nutritional properties of the food.
Increasing terpene levels
So, for the avid professional grower, the question becomes: “How can I increase terpene levels in my buds?” Here’s how.
Grow in compost soil: Because compost soil is the native medium for cannabis (or just about any other plant), it makes sense that cannabis plants grow best in the stuff nature intended for them. Because compost soil provides a steady stream of nutrients and minerals to the plant, all while maintaining the most ideal pH and alkalinity for absorption, soil is also the easiest way to increase terpenes in any given strain. (This isn’t to say you can’t boost terpenes through a hydroponic or aquaponic set up.)
Select the correct fertilizers: Certain brands of bottled chemical feeds can increase terpene levels in plants, too. That’s because these particular products contain elements (like sulfur), which seem to aid in the production of terpenes. Specialized fertilizers will even be marketed as promoting terpene levels.
Fertilize toward the end of flowering: It’s tempting to dump fertilizers on your plants from veg to flower. However, buds grow most efficiently when fed fertilizers toward the end of the flowering phase rather than at any point before then.
Keep the grow area cool: Some terpenes are unstable or volatile. They’ll evaporate in warmer grow rooms. If you can keep the temperature just under 80°F, this should lock in most of the terpenes. During the end of the flowering stage, dropping the temperature another 10 degrees at night (to 70°F) can further preserve the terpene profiles of your plants.
Never harvest early: Given the pressures of the recreational market, it can be difficult to keep a proper harvest schedule. However, if you’re able to, harvesting at the end of maturation rather than prematurely will ensure there’s more terpenes in the buds.
Mind your plants: Remember, there’s no way to selectively boost a particular terpene. We may be able to do this one day, but we still don’t know enough about how cannabis works at a biochemical level to manipulate individual terpenes.
Instead, your terpene profiles will be based largely on your plant’s genetics. If you’ve got a fruity strain or a skunky one, boosting the terpenes will likely increase the entire terpene profile. This isn’t necessarily bad. After all, complex profiles will generate layered flavors and scents. As cannabis consumers become more picky with their purchases, they will desire these complex profiles over simple ones that can only boast high THC levels as a selling point.
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