There is nothing esoteric about the concept of living soil. Quite the contrary. Highly esteemed by advocates of organic farming, this practice is proof that science and awareness can go hand in hand and work as one with nature.
The production of cannabis is no different from any other form of agriculture. In all cases, there are several coexisting methods, each with their advantages and disadvantages.
Some producers seek to obtain the best possible yield at all costs. Others prefer to work in harmony with nature and master the concepts of biology that will allow them to be just as productive without compromising the environment.
At Fuga, because respect for both humanity and nature is at the heart of our philosophy and because we want to cultivate in small batches, there was only one possible production method: cultivating in living soil.
Soil is an ecosystem
Insects, fungi, bacteria and microorganisms make up microfauna and microflora that are sometimes invisible to the naked eye, but nonetheless hold the power of life or death over plants.
In conventional farming, to obtain the best yield from each plot of land, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are used to ensure optimal growth, resulting in the contamination of the groundwater table and the soil. The use of chemicals has a detrimental impact on the flora, the fauna and the individuals who will later consume what has been harvested
At Fuga, we steer clear of this type of fast track towards hyper-productivity. We advocate soil health – and consequently plant health – rather than force feeding the soil with synthetic nutrients or systematically eradiating the insects and microorganisms in the surrounding area.
“The idea behind living soils is to nourish the soil instead of nourishing the plants”, Fuga agronomist Justine Richard explains. “Soil is a living ecosystem. We therefore work on fostering a balance between all the various living organisms present in the soil, so that the plants can get all the nutrients they need.”
Science at the service of nature
Technically, this enables the company to keep the same soil for several years in a row, as opposed to cultivating in containers (pots) where the compost needs to be replaced at each growing cycle.
“To ensure the soil retains all its nutrients from one harvest to the next, it is enriched with organic matter which in turn feeds the microorganisms,” the scientist adds.Soil assessments are carried out in a laboratory, as well as leaf analyses of the plant to make sure they aren’t lacking any nutrients. But the most fascinating thing is how the plants interact with the various microorganisms in the soil in order to control their environment, as a way of promoting optimal growth and obtaining high quality flowers.
Yes, plants are capable of communicating with their environment. And the continuing dialogue they have with the different elements that make up the soil helps stimulate an interactive relationship that is beneficial to all.
“The plant roots secrete exudates, a more or less fluid organic substance that enables them to modify their environment”, Justine explains. “This helps ensure the availability of the nutrients they need and influences the microbial composition of the soil.”
And earthworms also have a role to play as they expedite the mineralization of organic matter, making the minerals that nourish the plants more available. Incorporating fungi into the soil is also a way of favouring the symbiosis between the plants and these fungi.
All these different players feed on aerated compost teas, which stimulate biological activity in the soil.
“As well as being an organic process that doesn’t use any chemicals or artificial products, cultivation in living soil allows the plants to decide exactly which nutrients they need at all stages of growth,” the agronomist points out. “With hydroponic cultivation, nutrients have to constantly be added to the water, and the fertilizer recipes need to be adjusted every week to ensure plant growth. With living soils, inspections are carried out, but nature does much of the work on its own.”
Another advantage of using this method it that it boosts the plant’s aromatic attributes, those famous terpenes that give cannabis its different scents and tastes.
The animal kingdom also reaps the rewards because no chemical insecticides are used to control parasites that threaten the crops.
“We screen on a daily basis,” says Justine Richard. “And depending on what we find, we bring into play beneficial insects that will then combat the ones that could be a potential danger to our harvest.”
In addition to predator mites, which can do considerable harm to insect pests, we particularly favour the effectiveness of a whole host of parasitoids, such as parasitic wasps. This type of wasp can lay its eggs in the bodies of hundreds of aphids over their life cycle, causing them to eventually die. And once the invasion has been prevented, they too in turn die from lack of food.
This constant biological fight for survival perfectly exemplifies the work of scientists who, instead of recklessly exploiting the soil, learn how to harness its potential and enrich it wisely, with the utmost respect for the interactions that have governed the principles since time immemorial.
And ultimately, the soil gives back a hundredfold.