Do you like pungent, skunky weed? If so, you have terpenes and terpenoids to thank. Many cannabis growers are mostly concerned about maximizing the yield and getting the most buds out of each plant. But to maximize the flavor and aroma of your cannabis crop, you must pay attention to different factors.
Terpenes are produced by many types of trees, plants and flowers as part of their essential oils. Vitamin A is an example of a complex terpene that we’re all familiar with. The aroma and flavor of hops also comes from the presence of terpenes.
Terpenoids are closely related to terpenes (some authors refer to both types of organic compound as just “terpenes”) and are naturally found in all classes of living things. Terpenoids are created with terpenes are denatured by forces like oxidation. So for example, the process of drying and curing your buds will convert many of the terpenes into terpenoids.
Maximize Your Terpenes
Picking the right strain will play a big role in your final terpene content in your buds, but there are also many steps you can take as a grower to produce buds that smell the way you want. To get your plants to produce more terpenes and terpenoids than usual, you will need to stress them out a tiny bit. The key is to apply a small amount of stress consistently and over a longer period of time rather than all at once. This is best done during your plants’ flowering stage of life, in particular towards the middle or end of it. If you do it just right, within two weeks of the time you are going to harvest the buds, then you will end up maximizing the scent of your buds by increasing the terpene production as well as the trichome level
It’s always important to keep your relative humidity in the correct range when growing cannabis. If conditions are too moist, mold and mildew can ruin any chance of a fine-tasting harvest. On the other hand, keeping your humidity levels low may actually assist in the production of terpenes. Generally, keeping humidity no higher than 50 percent throughout flowering is a good rule of thumb. In the last few weeks of flowering, drop to 30 percent humidity to give your plants an extra stress boost prior to harvest. You can reduce humidity directly by either raising grow room temps or by using a dehumidifier. If you raise grow room temps, make sure they stay within the correct range.
Keeping your temperature within the correct range is an important way to maximize your terpenes. Perhaps most important of all, you must make sure temperatures are not too high. Overall, the daytime temperature sweet spot is around 25C/77F – 27C/80F. Maintaining those temperatures will help you to maximize your terpenes. This is particularly important in the last few weeks of flowering when terpene production peaks. Make sure that nighttime temperatures don’t get too cold, as temps below 16C/60F can harm your plants.
Certain types of lighting may cause terpene production to be higher. Particularly, certain high-quality LEDs are becoming associated with higher terpene production. This is partly explained by the fact that LED lighting can lead to cooler temperatures in the grow room. Hot forms of lighting such as HPS can make grow room temperatures very high, requiring expensive air-conditioning to cool the air. It’s also possible to tweak some LED lighting systems to manipulate the spectrum of light that the plant receives. If you tweak the balance of red and blue light in the right way, it may actually help you to maximize your terpenes too. One study showed that a red-blue ratio of 80:20 was better for terpene production than a ratio of 60:40. But that study was on chrysanthemums, and it also looked at the effects of different CO2 levels. At least one LED maker suggests switching the ratio of red to blue light from 80:20 to 70:30 or even 60:40 during the last two weeks of flower, to allow the blue light to maximize your terpenes. Another study conducted by a manufacturer of LED lights found something potentially very interesting to LED users. Lumigrow found that giving cannabis plants a “no-red” light treatment for the last three days of flowering could “increase terpene levels in Cannabis for most strains studied”. The strains studied were Chocolope, J1, OG18, and Reserva.
Grow in soil
Although hydroponic grows have many advantages, growing in soil is considered to produce a better final taste – probably due to the more natural blend of macro and micro nutrients. So sorry hydro growers, you miss out on this one!
All growers should make it a priority to maintain a healthy root zone, with a wide range of microbes. Beneficial microbes include hundreds of species of bacteria and fungus, which work together to deliver nutrients through complex organic pathways. Maintaining a healthy root zone helps to ensure that resin and terpene production is high and that flavors are balanced.
Nutrients & Supplements
When it comes to nutrients and supplements, you have several choices that can help improve the overall scent of your buds. Try to avoid chemical nutrients and only use nutrients made from living sources. There are various commercial “terpene enhancers” out there, although many of them are just sugar blends you can reproduce yourself. When your plant is in the flowering stage it’s important to make sure you only use specially formulated “flowering” cannabis nutrients, as these nutrients are made for the budding stage and will have lower levels of nitrogen and higher levels of potassium and phosphorous. One study shows that calcium is highly associated with terpene production in chrysanthemum plants. Calcium is very important to the complex processes that manage pest defense in many plants.
The great majority of terpene and terpenoid are held within cannabis bud. Too much nitrogen is known to slow down bud formation, so it makes sense that restricted bud formation results in restricted terpene and terpenoid formation. Restricting nutrients can have a strong (and positive) effect if it is done correctly and at the right time. The best time to carry out this method of stressing your plants is by reducing the amount of nutrients given in the last two weeks or less before you harvest your marijuana buds.
Harvest at the right time
Smells (terpenes) build up throughout the flowering stage. If you harvest too early you will have far lower levels of terpenes, and your buds won’t be nearly as fragrant as they would be if they had been allowed to develop to maturity. Trim buds on their stems so you can hang them upside down to dry. Compared to some other methods, drying on stems makes it easier to get it exactly right. Although not 100% necessary, drying this way gives buds a lot more of a water buffer and makes it much easier to dry buds slowly. Drying buds slowly during the first few days after harvest is crucial to producing cannabis that smells like it did in flowering. The curing process may seem unnecessary if you’ve never done it before, but it is going to significantly improve the taste, smell and overall smoothness of your buds. You simply cannot skip the curing process and get cannabis that lives up to its true potential. There are chemical processes that happen in the buds themselves during the curing process that drastically enhance their scent. These processes also increase the perceived potency of buds and many find the mental/body effects of buds to be much stronger and/or more pleasant after buds have been cured.
It’s not all about potency! Real top-shelf cannabis has the taste and aroma to go with it! So if you follow these steps, you should maximize your terpenes at every harvest.