Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jan 2016
Source: Guelph Mercury (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Rob O'Flanagan
Page: A1


Goal Is to Determine Perfect 'Recipe' For Cannabis Growing

GUELPH - Marijuana has been grown in a clandestine manner by a great 
many growers for a long time.

Despite that, an optimal way of cultivating the plant to boost its 
medicinal properties has not be found, says a University of Guelph 
plant scientist who is leading the charge to perfect pot growing.

Mike Dixon and his research team in the University of Guelph's 
controlled environmental system research facility and program have 
received $210,000 from Ontario Centres of Excellence. The money will 
fund the application of new irrigation technology to medical cannabis 
growing. It's a process by which small sensors are strapped to the 
stem of a plant and hooked up to a wireless data logger that measures 
the water status of the plant every 15 minutes.

But that is just one component of ongoing work being done by Dixon on cannabis.

The work is in partnership with Napanee-based ABcann Medicinals, and 
will be carried out in ABcann's Napanee facilities. Due to regulatory 
restrictions cannabis can't be grown on campus without a lengthy 
research licensing process. The controlled environmental system 
research facility is a precisely controlled plant growth environment 
that carefully measures things such as plant growth rates, nutrient 
remediation and organic compounds.

Dixon is known for his extensive work over the past 20 years on the 
use of plants as biological life support in space travel. He has 
worked with multiple international space agencies and companies in 
the aerospace sector. His team is also working on plant-based cancer 
drugs with Guelph-based PlantForm.

He said finding the best way to grow medical marijuana will involve a 
systematic and repeatable approach.

"This is just the leading edge of how the phytopharmaceutical sector 
must go. It must approach the production of medicinal compounds in 
plants in this manner."

The work with ABcann Medicinals is broader than the irrigation component.

"We have a very comprehensive research program in collaboration with 
ABcann Medicinals," said Dixon. "We're doing the whole environment 
control package, including the lighting systems, and the organic 
growing substrate that we're developing. We are looking at the plant 
in its entirety, its relationship to environment control systems, and 
how that ultimately defines the productivity in terms of the 
medicinal compounds of interest."

Dixon said there are many variations on the theme of growing pot, but 
no standardized method. Perfecting and standardizing production and 
quality is necessary if cannabis is to attain the stature of a high 
quality pharmaceutical commodity.

Gaining the capacity to grow the same drug every time is absolutely 
necessary, he said. And while there are strong genetics available to 
do that, the only way to produce a systematic, standardized product 
is through using repeatable, high quality environmental controls.

Dixon said no one has achieved it yet. The task is a big one.

"The plain truth is that the environment controlled recipe, comprised 
of light intensity, light quality, temperature, humidity, nutrients, 
soil attributes ... that recipe for specific commodities does not 
exist," he said.

"Every grower spawn by the decades of underground growing has their 
own recipe, but very little of it is proven in the cauldron of 
scientific research, with controlled experiments and objective 
assessments of the outcome, and detailed analysis of the medicinal 
compounds," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom