The cannabis industry is being rocked by a pesticide problem. In Colorado, the state’s largest grower, LivWell, is under litigation for knowingly using poisonous pesticides on their plants and then allowing those buds to be sold to consumers in marijuana retail stores. While in Washington, some of the state’s largest cultivators, New Leaf Enterprises, the parent company of Dama Products, and BMF Washington, maker of JuJu Joints, have been fined for knowingly using banned pesticides on their plants.
Alaska doesn’t require testing for pesticides, but it does require growers to list any pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide they use throughout the growing cycle. But why are growers spraying pesticides on their plants? One of the answers is that some growers don’t know how to keep pests and bugs from getting into their gardens, and don’t take the proper steps to eradicate the problem; so they spray pesticides and kill the pests and unwanted bugs.
Conrad Daley, horticulture director for the Alaska Cannabis Institute, says the best cure to pest problems is prevention.
“Growers who set-up their garden correctly, and apply natural growing techniques typically don’t have pest and bug problems,” says Daley.
There are many techniques growers can adopt when planting their gardens that will naturally resist many types of pests and bugs, like creating an ecosystem that closely resembles Mother Nature.
One person helping cannabis cultivators create a natural environment for indoor marijuana gardens is Steve Sturman, owner of Circle M Worm Farms of Alaska, a local worm nursery harvesting castings.
“We sell worm poop,” Sturman, 43, jokingly exclaims, as he describes his company and its product.
But it’s true. The technical, dry definition for worm castings is “the material deposited by worms after the material passes through the digestive track of the worm.”
How the process works is fascinating. In the process of worm reproduction, worms consume the organic matters in the soil and eventually expel substances that are good cannabis food. After eating all the organic matter and expelling substances, the worms are removed from the soil compost, and what remains are then sold as worm castings.
“Starting this business has been a lot of fun,” Sturman says. “My wife and I run the business, and my dad helps with the day-to-day worm turning and harvesting of the castings. I love being able to work with my family everyday.”
Sturman was born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula, and has spent the majority of his life commercial fishing the families set net site since its purchase in 1972. But with the last few years of fishing going through rough times, he was looking to diversify. That’s when Sturman’s friends told him about a family worm farm in the Lower 48.
“It sounded intriguing so my dad and I flew down for a few days on two separate trips to learn all that we could,” Sturman said. “After learning all we could we launched our farm last spring, and have been turning worms and collecting castings ever since.”
For cannabis cultivators looking to eliminate the use of chemicals, using living organic soil or dressing your soil with 100% organic worm castings is the answer.
According to Daley, worm castings are the most organic kind of fertilizer. “Worm castings are nutrient-rich and an excellent source of nitrogen, phosphates, magnesium, calcium, and potash,” Daley says.
When asked about the marijuana industry, Sturman gets excited about the opportunities that exist with worm castings.
“It’s awesome to be able to provide Alaskans an all organic, non-toxic fertilizer that helps them produce a higher quality product,” Sturman says.