Interested in increasing cannabis yields? Learn from tomato growers and consider interlighting!

Interested in increasing cannabis yields? Learn from tomato growers and consider interlighting!

In the tomato growing industry, cultivators have been using a lighting technique called interlighting to increase yields in their plants. But despite tomatoes and cannabis being biologically similar, cannabis cultivators have been slow to embrace this technology.

Currently, most grow lights being used in the cannabis industry are top lights, meaning the light hovers over the top of the plant. These types of lights “rain down” light on top of the plant’s canopy – mostly missing the rest of the plant (especially the stalk).So, what is interlighting and how are tomato growers using it to increase yields?

To put it simply, interlighting is an established and proven method of making sure light is hitting plants from all angles – not just the top of the canopy of the plant. It’s done by arranging light sources between the plants, so the light can get to the stalk of the plant.

Tomato cultivators have been using interlighting for years to increase yields down the stalk of the plant, as more light generally means more opportunities for flowering (and flowers produce fruit!).

Since tomatoes and cannabis have similar DNA – and grow in similar ways, in that they are both flowering plants that grow on stalks – it would behoove cannabis cultivators to look into this method to increase yields.

If you are wondering why cannabis growers haven’t made use of this technology, there are a few likely reasons. The first reason is that many cannabis growers are relatively new to the field, so they don’t always have the deep well of research or other growers to emulate. Because cannabis is slowly being legalized state-by-state, there isn’t a long-standing commercial with years of research in how best to grow this crop.

Another reason is, many cannabis growers believe that buds down the stem – away from the top buds on the canopy of the plant – are inferior in quality and so they don’t have interest in increasing yields there.

But the cannabis industry is becoming more and more competitive as it becomes legal in more states, meaning growers need to find new ways to increase yields – and profit. Cannabis is also becoming a commodity crop, just like tomatoes. In the near future,  it’s going to be more difficult to make it into a craft market..

To get additional yields down the stalk, you need to have light penetration there, which is why inter-lighting can be crucial to higher yields. Surgically inserting, or dropping a light below the canopy into the area near the stalk will produce more larger secondary s on cannabis plants. Focusing the light on different angles and sides will stimulate the plant to produce more flowers – which means more bud and more profit.

Cannabis farmers who are nurturing their plants for 3-4 months might as well get as much yield as they can by using interlighting.

But cannabis growers who are growing as a mass producer (similar to a gardener who grows tomatoes to eat or give to the neighbors versus a commercial farmer) should consider all the ways in which money can be made. Secondary yield might have less market value than primary yield but it still sells – and produces income.

And interlighting doesn’t just make a few extra dollars: Similar to tomato farmers, cannabis cultivators who use interlighting can expect about a 15% increase in yield – which is cash in hand.

Interlighting and LED

Interlighting uses LED bulbs, so when cultivators use it, they can select a spectrum designed for the growth stage of their plantsfor their plants, with an emphasis on the red spectrum which encourages flowering.. The whole plant – canopy and stalk – benefit from the spectrum of light LED bulbs offer: Blue for the vegetative state when the plants are delicate and tiny and red for when the plants go into the flowering state.

When these bulbs are installed, all the grower has to do is turn them on when the plant is flowering and watch the magic happen.

Another reason why LED lighting – and interlighting – can be beneficial to cannabis growers is they use fewer watts. Generally, an LED bulb uses about 46 watts of electricity which is a low amount but still gets the job done.

Less watts = less energy, which means less money spent on electricity, making the use of LED lighting a cost-effective way of growing.

The Key Takeaway

The key takeaway here comes down to money. Cannabis is turning into a commodity crop, just like tomatoes. And with commodity crops, as the supply increases – and more states pass laws to legalize it – there is less margin for error for growers in terms of how much yield they get per harvest. Cannabis could soon no longer be a craft or small business: it’s poised to become a big business.

If you look at the price of cannabis over the past five years, it is falling – and will likely continue to do so, as more growers enter the market and more states legalize it.

And as the price of cannabis drops, cultivators will need to balance the equation with higher yields, finding more cost-effective methods of growing and doing things they have not had to do in the past – and not getting stuck in their ways.

Using interlighting to increase yields is just one example of a way cannabis cultivators can shift with the times, in an open-minded and innovative way.

Cannabis growers are already shifting from HID light to LED light; interlighting is the next logical step.