Diagnosing plant problems can be tricky if you’re not involved in the day-to-day care of the crop. But skilled growers and consultants know that to uncover the real source of a problem, sometimes you need to go beyond the obvious. The next time a crop issue has you stumped, make sure you’re exploiting all 6 of your senses as you search for the real root of the problem.
1. Sight. Cultivation staff will point your attention to where the problem is, but take a good look at where they’re not pointing as well. Focusing too much on symptoms can blind a grower to elements around the plant that could be causing the problem. Employee habits, malfunctioning equipment, and sub-optimum growing conditions are the usual suspects.
2. Touch. If you’re sweating bullets at 10am in the greenhouse, how do you think your plants feel? Leaves are delicate structures, and hot temperatures can negatively affect plant productivity. Temperatures beyond 90 degrees Fahrenheit will stop most plants from growing and force them into survival mode. If you’re uncomfortable, your plants are too. Find a way to cool things down.
3. Smell. I get funny looks when I walk a crop and begin popping plants out of their pot to smell the soil. How a substrate smells can provide valuable insight into what is happening to the crop. Chronically overwatered plants have a rancid smell to the substrate since the roots are decomposing due to a lack of oxygen. If the substrate has the faint smell of a neglected compost pile, the plants are being overwatered.
4. Hearing. Dead silence is not a good thing, whether in a grow room or greenhouse. Fans make noise, dehumidifiers make noise, and carbon dioxide injectors make noise. If the sun is out or the grow lights are on, the area should not be silent. Air circulation is critical for healthy plant growth, since stagnant air can encourage plant disease and nutritional deficiencies. A well-functioning grow environment makes sound.
5. Taste. Don’t lick your plants! Rather, let your taste buds do the trouble-shooting once your crop is harvested. Dry cannabis flower will be harsh to smoke if the grower used excessive fertilizer during the crop, and it will “pop” when smoked if the crop has been seeded. Tasting the final product can indicate that the grower may need to adjust their fertilizer regime or scan the crop for late-season hermaphrodites.
6. Common sense. Unlike the other 5 senses, growers aren’t born with this one. They learn it. Not from surfing cultivation web sites or watching hours of YouTube videos, but from hands-on experience growing (and killing) lots of plants. There is no substitute for experience, and no amount of money can compensate for the lack of it. Common sense allows growers to interpret information gleaned from the other 5 senses and transform those insights into rational solutions for solving plant problems.