Soil does a lot more than just keeping plants upright. It provides plants somewhere to grow roots and holds nutrients. It filters and regulates the amount of water, maintains adequate aeration for plants, stores large amounts of organic material and provides a home for microbes.
Healthy soils can produce higher yielding crops and protect plants from stress.
Australian company Easy As Organics is Australia’s first certified organic producer of living soil growing media. The firm is establishing an innovative approach to licensed medicinal cannabis production together with New Zealand’s Trichome Medical, the first licensed medicinal cannabis facility in New Zealand to cultivate cannabis using an organic living soil media in an indoor greenhouse environment.
Traditionally, indoor growers would shy away from using living soils in favour of other sterile growing mediums such as grow wool, perlite, vermiculite and coco coir, as organic soils introduce unknown variables and pests into the operation.
Easy As Organics engineered the custom-made soil media formulated with an ideal physical, biological, and nutrient profile that can be successfully used in containers with minimal amendment applications across an entire growing cycle. The company also presented Trichome Medical with a best-practice irrigation management system, plus data-driven nutrient management guidance using organic amendments and vermicast to help ensure top-quality crop production.
Easy As Organics Director Matt Barnes said the specialised soil media enabled high-quality flower and high yields with reduced input requirements, reduced running costs, and zero waste.
“We are excited to collaborate with the team at Trichome Medical and be part of an industry-leading production of licensed organic medicinal cannabis,” said Matt. “We test the soil at harvest to ensure accurate amendment applications for the following crop cycle to deliver accurate cannabis nutrient requirements for optimal soil fertility and good plant yields.
“Multiple crop cycles in the same soil can be achieved using this method, with the added benefit that all irrigation water used in a living soil grow is held in the media and not run to waste, eliminating any nutrient runoff to the environment.”
Matt states the living soil media was blended with mature vermicast and compost that provided a highly diverse population of beneficial soil microbes, while the soil biology’s specialised qualities created a living ecosystem that promoted improved crop quality and resistance to disease and pests.
“This soil food web brings an array of crucial benefits that include nutrient cycling for plant uptake, improved soil water and air holding capacity as well as a disease-suppressant root zone,” said Matt.
“The key focus of the nutrient management program in this type of living growing media is maintaining balance and sufficiency for ideal soil fertility to keep soil microbes performing at their best. This allows the plants to uptake nutrients as required with maximum flower and oil production potential.”
“This is a cost effective and environmentally sustainable organic alternative to hydroponically grown crops that, with automatic irrigation, can also be less time consuming and labour intensive.”
In another first for Trichome Medical, the company has also secured New Zealand’s first export license for the sale of high THC flower to Australia.
Trichome Medical Director Tim Kelly said the transition to living soil from a hydroponic method of cultivation had been seamless and produced some of the best cannabis flower available on the New Zealand and Australian markets.
“This is an incredible period for the company with Easy As Organic’s soil product enabling sustained crop cycles with minimal fertiliser application and world-class results,” said Mr Kelly. “We are embarking on a new style of growing for New Zealand using organic living soil media in an indoor greenhouse and knowing the soil will sustain several full crop cycles makes environmental and economic sense to us. We are now into our second cycle and our cultivars are looking very healthy.”