Could UV Light Boost THC Production In Cannabis Plants?
Research shows a link between UV radiation and an increased THC content of marijuana. With this knowledge, we can increase our crop’s potency. Find out how to use UV light to produce potent weed!
The exact purpose and role that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD have in cannabis plants is still not entirely understood. Research, however, suggests that cannabinoids are a type of natural defence mechanism. It is believed that cannabis plants produce cannabinoids to ward off and defend against pests, diseases, and ultraviolet radiation. As such, recent studies have theorised that increasing UV exposure could cause more cannabinoid production in cannabis as a defensive measure – increasing potency and resin production.
We know that the most potent weed that grows naturally can be found in elevated mountainous areas around the world. Worthy to mention here, would be the growing hashish production areas in the Rif Mountains of Morocco, the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, and the Hindu Kush. These areas have several noteworthy things in common: they are all close to the 30 °N latitude on the globe, they have the perfect marijuana-growing climate, an abundance of sunshine, and most importantly, they are located at high altitude. This means that plants receive substantially higher amounts of UV radiation – they higher you go, the greater the exposure. UVB is a part of the sun’s natural light, so all outdoors plants get it to some degree.
Knowing this, scientists have gone a step further. Researchers from Maryland did a comparison of cannabis plants grown with and without additional ultraviolet radiation exposure. It was found that certain cannabis strains that were already high in THC produced almost 28% more THC when exposed to UVB light. Oddly enough, the experiment did not lead to an increase of CBD in CBD-rich strains. These results strongly suggest a link between UVB radiation and THC, hinting at that increased THC production may play a role in protecting the plant from UV radiation.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE FINDINGS
Since we now know UVB radiation could greatly increase the potency of our crops, we can take advantage of this knowledge. With supplemental light bulbs that generate UVB radiation similar to natural UV light, we can supply greater amounts of UV light to our plants for increased potency.
Small and affordable UVB-emitting “reptile lights” can often be found in pet stores, as some reptiles need UV light. You can also do an internet search for those types of supplemental UV lamps. Some newer grow lights may even come with an integrated UV light. For the average micro or mini grow-op, those supplemental UV lights don’t have to be large. A single reptile light (or “desert light” as they are sometimes called) can be sufficient if you want to supplement some UV light to boost your crops’ THC content. Outdoors, there is little you can do to boost UV, other than grow up a mountain! Either way, the fact that UV could play an important role is an interesting discovery, showing just how much we still have to learn about this wondrous plant!
Can UV light boost THC in cannabis? Studies suggest a link between UV light exposure and THC production
Cannabis Cultivation: The Light Spectrum and Ways to Raise THC Levels
Creating an ideal environment for cannabis plants is only achievable by understanding the principles of nature – the light spectrum is a factor that cannot be ignored.
Most cannabis growers have multiple objectives in mind when planning an indoor grow. Drafting scenarios to achieve higher yields, increase THC levels, or simply to improve the overall health of a plant is an integral part of their hobby. This element of strategic planning involves the challenge to link knowledge of different scientific fields and to match those findings to a technical solution that helps to achieve predefined goals. Besides dedication and passion, it is the willingness to learn that differentiates good growers from future experts – so let us try to grow the royal way and learn what it takes to cultivate cannabis of exceptional quality. Today, we are looking at fundamentals of physics, and learn how the light spectrum affects the growth of a cannabis plant.
WHAT IS THE LIGHT SPECTRUM?
The sun emits energy in the form of solar radiation including gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, and even radio waves. Life on Earth is only possible because the ozone layer blocks this radiation, and reflects most of it back into space. This filtering process only allows wave lengths between 300nm and 1100nm to reach our plants and an even smaller portion of this light is visible to us. It is often referred to as the light spectrum, color spectrum or visible spectrum, and ranges from 380nm to about 750nm.
- 180-280nm – UVC: Extremely harmful and luckily almost completely absorbed by the ozone layer
- 280-315nm – UVB: Cause of sunburn and suspected to increase THC levels (!)
- 315-400nm – UVA: Not absorbed by the atmosphere, commonly known as black light
- 380-750nm – The visible light spectrum: Bands of wave lengths represent visible colours
- 700nm-1mm – Infrared light: Not visible above 750nm but noticeable as heat on our skin
COLOUR TEMPERATURE (KELVIN) AND HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR PLANTS
When shopping around for a grow light, you will likely come across the term “colour temperature”. This is essentially a way to describe the light appearance provided by a bulb, and is measured in Kelvin (K).
Colour temperature doesn’t mean the physical temperature of your light, but the degree of warmth or coolness of a light source—the “visual temperature”. When a light has a higher degree of Kelvin, it has a more blueish appearance. Thus, we call it a “cool” light. On the other hand, a bulb with a lower degree of Kelvin emits a “warmer”, reddish light.
IS COLOUR TEMPERATURE THE SAME AS LIGHT SPECTRUM?
In a strictly scientific sense, no. Colour temperature is normally used as a way to describe how the light produced by a lamp looks to the human eye. For some types of lights, such as LEDs or fluorescent lamps, it doesn’t describe a light’s spectral distribution or wavelength.
Without going too deep into physics here, the light from an incandescent bulb radiates light spanning the entire visible light spectrum. The white light from the bulb is the result of a mix of wavelengths (colours in the spectrum) “contained” in the light.
Other lights, such as LEDs or fluorescents, may emit light from a number of narrow wavelengths, with gaps or peaks within the spectrum. In other words, even if the light appears the same to the eye, it may be missing certain wavelengths (colours) that plants require for healthy growth.
Because LEDs tend to emit light in a very narrow colour spectrum, LED grow lights are usually outfitted as “full-spectrum” setups. They consist of a number of different-coloured LEDs that together cover most of the necessary spectrum for cannabis plants. These full-spectrum LEDs are comprised of different reds and blues, often mixed with additional white LEDs. Other, newer LEDs, such as COB lights, emit a light spectrum that more or less approximates natural sunlight; there’s no “gap” in the colour spectrum.
WHERE DOES KELVIN COME IN WHEN CHOOSING A GROW LIGHT?
For vegging your cannabis plants, go with a cool light, one that emits a “daylight” colour with a high Kelvin of 6,000–6,500K. For flowering, a warm light with a reddish tone, about 2,800K, is optimal. You can also find grow lights with a “best of both worlds” colour temperature of about 3,500K, which you can use for both vegging and flowering.
HOW THE LIGHT SPECTRUM AFFECTS GROWTH
Every organism living on Earth needs information what is going on around them to react to environmental changes, and ideally, get a slight advantage over other members of their species regarding natural selection and evolution. Interestingly, cannabis plants receive a lot of their information from the light they’re exposed to, and almost instantly react to different bands of wave lengths – a complex topic to fill books with, but let us focus on the basics first.
1. Vegetative Stage – “Blue” light for healthy leaves (range: 400-500nm; ideal: 460nm)
During the vegetative stage it is recommended to aim for as many leaves as possible, and to make sure plants stay rather compact, don’t stretch too much, and develop strong stems. Indoor growers tend to use metal halide bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s), or T5/T8 lighting fixtures with a blue band of light for the first few weeks to achieve these goals. When cannabis grows in nature, the high angle of the sun in spring and summer allows more “blue” wave lengths to penetrate through the atmosphere, a signal for cannabis plants to grow strong, large and healthy leaves.
2. Flowering Period – “Red” light for giant buds (range: 620-780nm; ideal: 660nm)
When cannabis plants enter the flowering period, highest yields can be achieved by exposing them to a light spectrum that contains lots of “red” wave lengths to promote budding. The rate of photosynthesis peaks when plants are subjected to “red” wave lengths of 660nm although latest NASA findings suggest that even “green” wave lengths, which are not associated as a major factor in photosynthesis, can also have an impact on how plants grow. Seeing a cannabis plant as simple photosynthesis factory is consequently a little hasty. But for now, choosing a lighting solution with a high degree of “red” in its spectrum remains the best way for growers to imitate the shallow angle of the sun in late summer and autumn.
INCREASING THC LEVELS WITH UVB LIGHT – MYTH OR REALITY?
Have you ever wondered why potent cannabis strains often originate from landraces that naturally grow in high altitude regions? There are experts who suspect ultraviolet light, especially a high exposure to UVB wave lengths (280-315nm), to be responsible for an increased THC production. The theory is based on the fact that a high elevation means lesser atmosphere between cannabis plants and the sun, leading to a higher exposure to UV rays. These ultraviolet wave lenghts knowingly damage our skin, and the human body reacts by producing melanin as protection – a cannabis plant assumingly does something similar – it produces more resin and THC as a form of natural sunscreen. It is too early to say if we are dealing with a theory or a cost-effective method to grow better cannabis but the concept seems plausible enough for hands-on experiments. UVB bulbs for reptiles only cost a few bucks; perhaps we should give it a try.
Seeking methods to increase THC production feels natural for growers – learn how the light spectrum can affect growth and potency of weed.