Our main research interests focus on controlled environment plant physiology, biochemistry, and production. Particularly plant production in greenhouses and controlled environment agriculture settings. The overall goal is to determine how to leverage environmental controls (light intensity, duration, quality, temperature, and CO2), plant nutrition, and plant growth regulators and hormones (biostimulants) to improve plant production efficiencies, yield, and crop quality. More specifically, my research program is embracing technologies to maximize cannabinoids, non-cannabinoids (terpenes and flavonoids), fiber, and grain productivity/quality via plant physiological, biochemical, and agricultural approaches.
The term Cannabis is associated with two genetically different biotypes known as industrial hemp and marijuana. According to the regulations in most countries, the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels is the baseline to differentiate between biotypes, where 0.3% of THC or lower characterizes industrial hemp and marijuana is in any range above this threshold. Therefore, “cannabis” refers to a taxonomic genus, non-italicized, “cannabis” is a generic term that can compass the species diversity. The fact that THC is a psychoactive substance and its levels in the plants are related to its legality. Narcotics regulations enacted after the Second World War resulted in drastically decreased cannabis cultivation and consequently scientific research, environmental impacts and legal human experience also faded with time. Knowledge regarding cannabis water use, fertilizer and disease/pest control requirements, cropping systems, controlled environment cultivation, plant biology, cannabinoids use, and extraction are outdated due to the legal status.
Recently, interest in cannabis has resurged because of it’s potential as a multi-purpose crop and potential profitability. Cannabis is a versatile plant that can be grown for fiber, seed, grain, oil, fuel, pharmaceutical and recreational properties. The desire to produce cannabis secondary metabolites including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids increases the need for research addressing ways to maximize cannabis development and yield in indoor and outdoor conditions and efficient extraction methods.
In this promising scenario there are numerous professional, educational and research opportunities and our lab is inserted in this reality. According to analysis from the 2021 MJBizFactbook, the cannabis industry will employ 340,000-415,000 full-time equivalent workers across the United States in 2021 and grow to 545,000-600,000 by 2025. IT MEANS OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUR STUDENTS! It is a good time to be part of Cannabis Science!