Many cannabis growers would rather use organic pesticides if possible, as opposed to regular ones. Let’s explore the risks that come with using pesticides on cannabis, and discover some natural alternatives.
Many cannabis growers don’t want to use pesticides because of possible health risks that have been mentioned, even though these claims haven’t been proven. Pesticides can also impact the environment negatively. In this article, we explore different types of pesticides, their potential dangers, and some other methods you can use to keep pests away from your cannabis plants.
What Is a Pesticide?
“Pesticide” is an extensive term that should be further explained. In simple terms, a pesticide is any substance that kills small animals and bugs; “pests” receiving the negative connotation of creatures who interfere with a bountiful harvest.
Nowadays, pesticides have gotten a bad reputation for destroying topsoil quality, decimating wild insect populations, and contaminating fruits, vegetables, and cannabis. Many people express wishes of living in a world without pesticides. But what are they?
Different Types of Pesticides
Pesticides are any substance used to kill predators, and they can be either natural or synthetic. For example, cannabis’ terpenes might seem harmless, but they’re actually classified as a pesticide. There are three main categories of pesticides:
- Herbicide: for killing unwanted plant growth
- Insecticide: for killing insects
- Fungicide: for killing fungi, such as mildew
- Rodenticides: for killing rodents, such as rats
But it goes much deeper than this, too.
As stated before, there are two types of pesticides: synthetic and organic. The amount of damage they can each cause varies, but it’s important to remember that organic doesn’t always mean less harmful.
DDT, or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, was once one of the most popular pesticides used to control crop-harming insects. However, it became quickly controversial in the mid 1900s when people started realizing its harmful environmental impacts and possible links to cancer. As a result, DDT was banned in 1972 in America and globally prohibited by 2004.
In contrast, there is neem oil (margosa oil). Oil from the seeds of the neem tree indigenously found in the Indian subcontinent, this smoothly pressed natural remedy has purposed use for killing various insects–yet excluding others such as butterflies. Studies have shown it also causes little damage to its Surroundings: animals or ecosystem. However, be wary–ingesting large dosages can result in toxicity and potentially death for humans.
The word “pesticide” is used to describe a lot of different products, making it hard to make any blanket statements about them.
What Are the Dangers of Pesticides for Humans?
Pesticides are designed to kill living organisms–this is why they can be useful. It follows that, in high enough concentrations, all pesticides pose some risk to human health. However, note that some pesticides are much safer than others. For example, neem oil appears to be totally safe when used as directed but can be dangerous if ingested undiluted. In contrast, DDT may cause damage even at low levels of exposure
A study from 2018 found that pesticides are linked to around 300,000 deaths per year. The study identified a broad range of potential health problems that may occur from pesticide exposure, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and disorders of the respiratory and reproductive tracts. Scientists suggest that these substances cause oxidative stress, which damages the DNA in human cells and alters gene expression.
There are many examples of potent pesticides that suggest they pose a risk to human health. Moreover, the environmental damage caused by pesticide use is enormous.
Can Pesticide Residue on Cannabis be Dangerous?
If crops are sprayed with pesticides, those chemicals might not be completely washed off before the food is sold. In Europe, there are stricter regulations about this which protect consumers somewhat, but in other areas of the world eating unwashed produce could be deadly.
With all of this information, it is difficult to discern if consuming cannabis grown with pesticides is dangerous. Most times, smoking cannabis does introduce chemicals into the respiratory tract and lungs; however, we do not yet know the full effects these have on human health.
Pesticide residue on cannabis may pose a risk to human health, according to some research. For example, one study examined if the pesticides present in cannabis could lead to an increased chance of developing neurological disorders in users. The study notes that people who use cannabis and have underlying conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s are already struggling with neurological issues and thus may be more vulnerable to negative side effects from consuming pesticides.
Although the jury is still out, some experts believe that pesticides could be to blame for cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). CHS is a rare condition that causes nausea and vomiting in chronic cannabis users. However, Dr Russo’s recent study suggests otherwise. He believes that genes are responsible for CHS rather than pesticide exposure. This is because cases of CHS have not increased at the same rate as the use of pesticides on cannabis plants.
CHS is a relatively unknown condition that often goes misdiagnosed, making it difficult to identify the root cause and effects of the condition.
Pesticide Alternatives for Growing Cannabis
Although cannabis pesticide risks and environmental effects are unknown, it might be better to choose safer alternatives when growing cannabis at home.
While harmful chemicals used to be the norm in cannabis growth, today many safer alternative solutions require a bit more investigation and understanding to use. Some pesticides have become increasingly popular for being able to kill most anything–this troubleshooting method does not need advanced identifying skills.
The options provided below may only be effective for certain pests and problems, so choose accordingly. They are definitely worth the try! All of the options work to kill pests in one way or another, but they don’t use synthetic pesticides like most commercial products out there.
Remove by Hand
While this process may seem tedious, it could be the simplest and most effective solution depending on the pest. If you have a widespread spider mite infestation, then removing them by hand becomes impractical, and would require a more significant response. If instead you discovered one cluster of eggs on a leaf however, then simply removing said leaf might stop an infestation from happening altogether.
If you choose to go this route, be sure to check on your plants regularly—looking carefully under the leaves—to make sure that you have removed the entire problem!
A common household product can be used as an extremely effective weapon against pests- alcohol. To create the solution, mix 9 parts water to 1 part isopropyl or ethanol alcohol then spray directly on the insects. The concentration of alcohol will determine how successful it is in killing bugs; however, spraying developing or mature buds should be avoided no matter what ratio you use.
Ladybugs are voracious predators and will hunt down many insects that can damage your cannabis crop. You can either release them into your garden or buy them from a garden centre. Release them in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler, and they should get to work immediately.
Diatomaceous earth is basically fossil dust that’s incredibly sharp at a molecular level. It can damage the bodies of insects and pests, which makes it great for getting rid of them! To use it, spread it around the base of your plant or put it on the plants themselves while they’re in the vegetative stage. However, don’t put diatomaceous earth on flowering cannabis as you definitely don’t want to inhale any – not good for your health!
Warning: when using diatomaceous earth, be sure to wear a face mask to avoid inhaling the powder.
Neem oil, as mentioned before, is a natural pesticide that does not danger human health or the environment surrounding us. Easily accessible online and in gardening stores, simply spray it onto an infested plant—not on the buds—and witness it do its job. Neem oil works amazingly as both a preventative measure against future bugs and also as cure to an infestation already underway.
Chances are, you have come across sticky traps before. These strips work by attracting insects with adhesive, and then the insect becomes stuck on the strip until it eventually dies. It’s not a pleasant death for sure, but they are effective nonetheless. Moreover, in summer they can help keep flies to a minimum as well–two birds with one stone!
Covers and Greenhouses
By keeping your plants in a greenhouse, you can take advantage of the benefits that come with outdoor growth while also having more control over the environment. Even though greenhouses don’t prevent an infestation from happening altogether, it does reduce the probability to some degree.
Garlic can act as a natural pesticide, and is an effective way to get rid of insects and infestations. To make a garlic spray, you need to source garlic extract, which is easily accessible in shops. Or you can make it by blending 4–5 cloves of garlic along with a small amount of water and a few drops of dish soap. Then, strain the “juice” through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. Add this concoction to around 500ml of water, and use a misting bottle to spray it onto your plants.
Turmeric can be used to kill bacteria and pests on cannabis plants. To make a turmeric solution, mix 15 grams of turmeric powder with 1.5 litres of water and 1.5 grams of baking soda. If you want to tackle insects instead, swap the baking soda for mustard oil, which will prevent them from reproducing.
Cannabis and Pesticides
Pesticides are extremely dangerous, as you can see from the chart. You would never want to consume these, so it’s a good thing that they aren’t typically used for growing cannabis at home. Even though using them is unlikely, it’s still important to be aware of the risks associated with them.
You may not have thought to do this, but washing your weed after harvest could help get rid of pesticides and general grime. If you’re unaware, somehow dirt and residue gets stuck on very sticky buds during the growing process.
Adopting pesticide-free methods is not only great for you and the planet but also results in a bigger, better yield of natural weed.