Butsch of Massive Seeds and Roganja, believes organic farming helps produce a top-shelf crop, but he admits that the microclimate in Southern Oregon really allows the plants to thrive. Photos by Pete Alport.
Peter Butsch and his brother, Paul, have been growing cannabis in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley for as long as they can remember. They originally learned the secrets of organic-style cannabis farming from their father, who had grown marijuana on the property since the 1970s, and they’ve been carefully refining those techniques for years to create a sustainable, top-shelf product.
“I know every farmer thinks they grow the best weed — and I do too,” Peter Butsch says, laughing at his own boldness.
But no one can blame Butsch for his obvious bias. After all, he knows the time and energy required to grow his delectable crop and he understands the minute details that went into the cultivation process at Roganja, a state-licensed producer in the heart of Oregon’s cannabis country.
Roganja uses green manure that includes daikon radishes and fava beans to prepare the soil.
Healthy soil is the lifeblood of any organic farming operation.
But truly organic, living soil can’t be created overnight. It often takes years of properly developing the soil to create the right microbial balance. At Roganja, this ongoing process ramps up in early March when Butsch plants a cover crop of legumes, beans, peas and radishes. The daikon radishes and fava beans are particularly important at this stage, he says.
The daikon radish roots act like “thousands of drills in the soil” and provide necessary aeration. The fava bean roots extend six feet deep into the soil, helping translocate deeply buried nutrients closer to the surface.
The nitrogen-fixing cover crop was planted March 1, then chopped down about three months later. While some farmers prefer to harvest their cover crops and leave the plant material on top of the soil, Butsch cuts down the plants and reincorporates the “green manure” into the soil. He tills the field and integrates the decomposing cover crop into the native dirt. The process adds biomass and helps the beneficial bacteria and fungi thrive. It also produces naturally occurring fulvic acid, a common element in organic farming that helps with nutrient uptake.
“The plants just love that fulvic acid,” Butsch says.
Roganja is allowed up to 40,000 square feet of canopy.
Growing from Seed
While the cover crop grows outdoors, Roganja raises cannabis seedlings in a nursery greenhouse that doesn’t use artificial light. About 90% of the company’s plants are started from seed rather than clones.
This year, seeds were planted March 7 and transplanted into Southern Oregon’s great outdoors in May and June. A small amount of potting soil mixed with the native soil helps ease the transition, Butsch says.
Throughout the season, a wide array of organic nutrients are used to bolster the plants as needed, including crab, fish and kelp amendments, as well as llama and chicken manure. Butsch believes diversity is key in organic farming.
“The more diversity you bring in, the more nutrients are available to the plants,” he says.
The company has had some lab tests done on soil in the past, but most of the amendments are based on intuition, Butsch says. It’s a skill that’s been honed over the years of learning the microclimate and the region’s soil.
The result is an “indoor-quality” flower produced in a sustainable, low-impact manner and currently carried by about 30 Oregon retail shops. Meanwhile, the Butsch brothers also run Massive Seeds, a separate brand focused on genetics.
Because all adults in Oregon are allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use, 10-packs of Massive Seeds are available at about 15 retail outlets and the company also sells some seeds to other commercial farmers.
Look to La Luna
Using the cycle of the moon could be a pathway to more productive plants, but scientists tend to be skeptical
By Garrett Rudolph
How do most outdoor growers determine when to plant their cannabis crops?
Like many elements of the marijuana industry, the answer varies widely from one cultivator to the next. While some stick to a set date at the beginning of the season, others rely heavily on intuition or they’ll follow an agricultural calendar of projected “frost-free days.”
And some growers abide by a higher power: the waxing and waning of the moon, a technique as old as farming itself and one with just as many fervent followers as it has science-based skeptics.
The concept is that the moon’s gravitational pull impacts moisture in plants, the soil and water table, so planting at the optimal phase helps produce healthier crops and larger yields.
Adding another layer to the complexity of the subject is that while most lunar planting calendars list favorable planting dates for a wide range of flowers and vegetables, cannabis is, not surprisingly, absent from most lists. That means growers who want to plant based on the cycle of the moon would have to find a comparable plant to use as a guideline or refine their own schedule through years of experience.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, annual flowers and above-ground vegetables should be planted during the waxing of the moon (from the day it is new to the day it is full). The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s lunar calendar divides North America into four regions. Southern California and Florida are Area 1; Northern California and the majority of Washington and Oregon are classified as Area 2; Colorado, New England and Southern Canada are Area 3; Northern Canada is Area 4.
So for example, the “moon favorable” planting dates for tomatoes in Area 2 are March 27 to April 11, while spring wheat in the same region would be April 26 to May 7.
Flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers and below-ground vegetables should be planted during the moon’s dark cycles (waning).
However, in a 1991 New York Times article, Cynthia Rosenzweig, an agronomist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, called the benefits of lunar planting schedules “mythology”.
“There has to be a physical reason why the moon’s different phases would affect soil properties, soil temperature, moisture content, precipitation, which are the actual physical factors that make seeds germinate,” she told The Times. “And that isn’t documentable.”
Frank Abramopoulos, an astrophysicist interviewed in the same Times article, echoed Rosenzweig’s outlook on the subject.
“The tidal force — the gravitational pull of the moon — would be there, but at a level smaller than would affect any biochemical processes,” he said.
1 – Marc Cathey, the former director of the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., was also interviewed for the Times article and said lunar planting connects modern farmers with their forebears who had to rely substantially more on weather patterns — but today’s technology and genetic improvements have lessened Mother Nature’s stranglehold over successful crop production.
“These things like planting by the zodiac and the phases of the moon were based on close observations of periods of chill and clouds and exposure to light and the ups and downs of barometric pressure,” he said. “But they were damped out by sprinklers and fertilizer and peat moss and tomato seeds that germinate so well, every dadgum one comes up.”
Yet, thousands of gardeners — both of the hobbyist and commercial variety — swear by the lunar calendar.
It’s more about the fact that planting by the moon does work — for one reason or another — not about how it works.
“While science may not fully understand why planting by the moon works, anecdotal evidence suggests that it does,” Richard Telford wrote for the Permaculture Research Institute in a 2015 article on the organization’s website.
Planting by the cycle of the moon is one of the oldest techniques in farming.
Roganja embraces another technique that separates it from other cannabis producers: using the cycles of the moon to determine its planting schedule.
It means the growers have to pay close attention to the waxing and waning of the moon, and you’re more likely to find a copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac being used around the Jackson County farm than you are one of the dozens of marijuana growing guides published by self-proclaimed experts.
At first blush, it might sound like hippie pot grower folk lore, but farmers have been using agricultural astrology for thousands of years.
Butsch says the difference can be seen in the “overall vigor” of the plants.
“The weather patterns seem to follow the moon cycles,” he adds. “It always seems that a nice rain will fall right after planting.”
The METRC system has been “kind of a nightmare” for farms that use a multi-harvest strategy, Butsch says.
Roganja and Massive Seeds have transitioned from Oregon’s medical program into the state’s emerging recreational market. As a Tier II outdoor grow, the company is allowed up to 40,000 square feet of canopy.
While many growers have struggled with Oregon’s strict pesticide regulations, Butsch says he likes that the state implemented such a rigorous set of guidelines.
Roganja and Massive Seeds have received the Certified Kind stamp of approval, meaning they do not use chemical pesticides and follow standards that closely mirror the USDA’s National Organic Program.
However, Oregon’s seed-to-sale tracking requirements have been a different story. Using Franwell’s METRC system has been “kind of a nightmare,” Butsch says.
While the program itself works fine, Butsch says it wasn’t really built for farms like Roganja, which uses a multi-harvest strategy, cutting down the top colas early and letting the rest of the plant continue to develop. The company may harvest a single plant multiple times, making it extremely costly and time consuming to track every gram from every plant with METRC during a process that may take a month or more.
“I think there’s a better way to still have oversight, but put a little more trust in people,” Butsch says.
While the Butsch brothers deserve their share of credit for Roganja’s quality crops, they acknowledge Mother Nature’s role in creating some of the country’s finest cannabis.
The Roganja and Massive Seeds gardens are located in a five-acre irrigated pasture on a 30-acre plot of land in Jackson County. It’s situated in one of the hottest parts of the Rogue Valley, and the Butsch brothers have been breeding strains specifically acclimated to the hot, dry, Upper Rogue microclimate that generally works well for sativas. Strains like Rogue Valley Wreck, Lemon Pineapple and Pineapple Pomegranate have thrived in the area.
Roganja has helped Portland State University with a study of Oregon’s cannabis terroirs and how genetic traits are adapted to geographical regions. Early research indicates six or seven different unique terroirs in Southern Oregon.
Butsch believes quality of the final product is the combination of well-suited genetics, the Rogue Valley’s legendary microclimate and use of organic farming practices.
“It’s really the land that produces the best herb,” Butsch says.Growing Massive Butsch of Massive Seeds and Roganja, believes organic farming helps produce a top-shelf crop, but he admits that the microclimate in Southern Oregon really allows the plants to
5 Bizarre Weed Plants that Push the Boundaries of Cannabis Cultivation
If you’ve ever cultivated a cannabis plant then you’ll probably be familiar with a number of properties. How big a plant can get, what the leaves look like and what THC percentages you can expect from weed. But there are varieties which fall outside the norm. These are the freaks of cannabis cultivation.
1 – The Unrecognisable Weed Plant, Frisian Duck
Let me introduce myself: ‘I am Frisian Duck, a descendant of ‘Duck’s Foot’. Dutch Passion discovered the weird leaves of my ancestors and started to cultivate me. I use natural camouflage!’
Frisian Duck develops what look like grape leaves making it appear quite unlike cannabis.
What makes you special? ‘My leaves have mutated into something that no longer resembles cannabis. Dutch Passion then decided to further cultivate these crazy leaves. To be honest, a collection of Frisian Ducks looks more like a vineyard than a cannabis plantation! Even the smell of my flowers is a bit different from what you’re used to with weed.’
Why is that of interest to the grower? As you can imagine, not everyone appreciates having weed plants in the neighbourhood. That’s exactly what makes a camouflaged appearance important. It means you can grow weed in places where it can be seen.
What will the future bring? When Dutch Passion saw the mutation as a positive rather than a negative, it really kick-started the cannabis ‘paralympics’.
Weed has numerous mutations. Some are of interest to growers and are comparable to a runner with an extra set of legs. Just think about flowers clumped together (polyploidy), a flower on each leaf (leaf bud) or rampant shoots which create an entire weed jungle within a few months because they creep over the ground and propagate new roots.
A collection of Frisian Ducks looks more like a vineyard than a cannabis plantation!
Incidentally, it’s by no means easy to keep hold of such a good mutation. This is because a mutation doesn’t always remain in the genetics. That’s why there are few varieties (or rather strains) that use mutations as a selling point. In the future there will be more varieties coming on the market which are guaranteed to contain a mutation but it’s still not clear when producers will manage to do this.
Photo of a polyploid weed plant (genetic mutation).
What else should we know about you? ‘Don’t let my appearance and non-standard aroma deceive you. I produce a high percentage of THC. And my youngest leaves around the flower in the final weeks before harvesting start to look like weed.’
2 – Peak THC with Gorilla Glue Weed – When will the THC-Ceiling be Reached?
Let me introduce myself: My name is Gorilla Glue and it’s the THC which makes me sticky.’
Gorilla Glue Weed is bursting with THC. It’s one of the strongest varieties around. Photo: herbaconnect.com (CC BY 2.0)
What makes you special? ‘Why is my THC percentage special? My peers lose important nutrients when creating cannabinoids like THC. Nutrients which are otherwise used to allow our buds to grow further and make the plant big and strong.’
The balance between these three factors – big plant, large buds and high THC – is very challenging for growers. Gorilla Glue (also known as Original Glue and GG4) gets to 2 metres high, has enormous buds and produces a THC percentage of around 25%. And that’s approaching the upper limits.
Is there an Upper Limit for THC? Yes, because weed plants need a lot of nutrition to produce THC, there is a maximum THC percentage that weed can contain. The theoretical limit is about 35% THC by dry weight.
Why is that of interest to the grower? Naturally, you want all three together. A combination of big plant, large buds and high THC will give you a large harvest and ensure that every drag of a joint will hit like a bomb.
Are you the only one? There are no cannabis plants with THC percentages higher than 35%. What’s more, the development of THC and CBD in any plant is heavily dependent on the feeding, water, ambient temperature, soil and light. Consequently, not a single company claims that their seeds produce the strongest weed. Gorilla Glue GG4 is one of the THC champions. Other varieties of weed with a THC percentage of about 25% are Ken Dawg, Kimbo Kush and 707 Headband. Next to Gorilla Glue, these are the strongest and most reliable strains on the market.
3 – Weed Plant with Maximum CBD: The CBD Smash Hit Candida CD-1
Let me introduce myself: ‘I am Candida, the parent plant from Medical Marijuana Genetics and I’ll give you a lot of CBD.’
Candida CD-1 from Medical Marijuana Genetics is a weed plant known for its high CBD percentage and low THC percentage.
What makes you special? ‘My niece Gorilla Glue already mentioned that there is a limit to how much THC a weed plant can contain. I’m exploring the limit for CBD in a weed plant.’
Can a weed plant contain 25% THC and 25% CBD? No, it is either one or the other. Let me explain it in simple terms. Just like THC, CBD is produced by converting nutrition. It’s a matter of the total amount of cannabinoids which a weed plant can contain. CBD conversion is a less efficient biological process and that’s why you don’t see any percentages like 30% CBD.’
Candida CD-1 has a CBD:THC ratio of 20 to 1. The percentage of CBD in the flowers can run up to 20% while the THC percentage does not exceed 1%.
Why is that of interest to the grower? If you don’t want to get high but do want to enjoy the other benefits of weed, you should choose a high percentage of CBD. CBD even suppresses the high so be assured that a few drags of Candida from Medical Marijuana Genetics will leave you with a clear head.
Are you the only one? The arrival of plants with a high CBD percentage is a development of recent years. There was not much call for it before because little research had been done on CBD. But that has all changed since the 1980’s. At that time, people started to cultivate and cross-fertilize plants which contained a maximum percentage of CBD. But there still wasn’t much of a market for it.
Candida from Medical Marijuana Genetics contains up to 20% CBD!
Now there is even a cup for CBD-rich weed plants in the most important international cannabis competitions. And the records are continuously being broken. We are not yet at the limit but Candida CD-1 with its CBD percentage of just under 20% is getting close to emptying the barrel. What’s also important is that Candida is a strong plant with reliable results. That’s why this plant has also become the parent plant of all Medical Marijuana Genetics’ weed plants.
In the future more top notch CBD plants will come onto the market. In addition to Candida CD-1, you are now able to choose between Green Doctor GD-1, Orinoco OR-1, and Nightingale NN-1 (also from Medical Marijuana Genetics) or CBD Auto Charlotte’s Angel from Dutch Passion.
4 – Biggest Weed Plant, Green Crack: In Competition with the Neighbour’s Tree
Let me introduce myself: ‘I’m Green Crack from Humboldt Seeds and I suffer from megalomania.’
Don’t let this modest top fool you. Green Crack can get to 4 metres in height and thus belongs to the biggest weed plants.
What makes you special? ‘If there was basketball for weed plants, I’d be on the podium.’ Green Crack is a weed plant which can reach 4 metres in height in open ground with sufficient light. A bit more and you could trim your harvest from the attic window.
What is the advantage of a large plant? That has to be the yield. Humboldt Seeds has no problem in promising from 1 to 3 kilos.
Are you easy to look after? ‘You can grow me indoors or outdoors but I love space, light and plenty to eat. I think that must be because I often have my head in the clouds.’
Our tip? Plant out Green Crack in open ground and full sunlight in a south-facing garden. Then it’ll shoot up to the first floor within a few weeks. But keep giving it plant feed because that’s what makes it big and strong.
If there was basketball for weed plants, Green Crack would be on the podium.
Are you the only one? ‘If I look out from on high across the surrounding gardens, I recognise Kilimanjaro (the strain, not the mountain) and Lemon Thai. All of us have a lot of Sativa blood. Sativa varieties are usually taller than Indica ones. If they also have small drop of Indica in them, then the plant will often be stronger and the buds bigger as well.
5 – Cannabis Sprinter, Big Bang Auto: There can only be 1 that is the Fastest
Let me introduce myself: “I’ll keep myself short because I’m in a hurry. My name is Big Bang Auto, and I am a super-fast autoflower plant.”
Big Bang Auto from Greenhouse Seeds is one of the fastest flowering weed plants.
What makes you special? “I am a super-fast autoflower plant. I give a high return for my modest stature.”
Why is that of interest to the grower? If you cultivate indoors, you can grow several times a year. Once one plant has finished flowering, you can plant the next seedling in the growing cabinet. In this way you can grow one after the other and end up producing more weed than you can smoke on your own in a year. ‘I become mature very quickly. In just over 2 months I will have finished growing and flowering. Then you’ll get around 45 grammes by dry weight per plant from my buds.’
What else should we know about you? ‘You can also plant me outdoors but I don’t like the cold. My lower limit is 10 degrees Celsius. Oh, and by the way, I never get taller than one-and-a-half metres.’
What will the future bring? Autoflowers (weed plants that bloom without changing light) are an answer to our lack of time. We also have less and less time. We also want a lot of weed when growing weed and we want it now.
There are also non-autoflowers that have a high yield in no time; the so-called fast flowers. Fast Flowering cannabis therefore has a colorful future, because you can do a lot with little. Fast flowers are the next step in the cannabis evolution, but so far there are only a handful of plants that have a nice balance between speed and yield.
In the future we will see more Fast Flowering cannabis seeds.
Exploring the Boundaries of Cannabis
There will always be producers or growers who push the boundaries. In this article we’ve shown you some of the biggest, fastest, most striking and strongest varieties. What the future will bring us in this area is as yet unclear given that we weren’t able to predict there would be so much interest in CBD prior to the explosion in CBD strains. It’s a similar story with the autoflower market. But let the freaks keep coming because we are ready and waiting for them!
Autoflower? What’s that about? Having difficulty with the terminology in this article? That’s okay! Learn more with these articles!What is the maximum THC? Do unrecognisable cannabis plants exist? How far can you go with cultivating, cross-fertilizing and cuttings? Discover the freaks in this article! ]]>