How the Light Spectrum Affects Your Terpene Production
Posted on July 30 2018
High quality indoor grow lights can help you, not only grow plants quicker, but help you grow more potent cannabis as well. Beyond getting the heat, humidity and nutrients all dialed in, effectively using the light spectrum can help boost cannabinoid and terpene levels. Once you learn how this works, you can use it to your advantage.
First, we need to understand what terpenes do, and why terpenes have an effect on the strength of your cannabis plants.
What is a terpene?
Terpenes are the aromatic oils which naturally occur in many plants including cannabis. While there are many different terpenes, each produces specific scent characteristics. Growers needing to grow low-odor cannabis should avoid high terpene strains which can create the pungent characteristics known to cannabis.
Terpenes are also responsible for flavors present in any particular strain. For those who love to use concentrates or herb vaporizers, a higher number of terpenes means a stronger flavor – and possibly a more enjoyable experience. For many consumers, scent is a strong indicator of quality and potency.
THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are located in the ‘trichomes’ of the plant, the small crystalline hairs covering the outsides of the bud. Terpenes are also present in the trichomes, though in lower quantities than within the calyx and pistils of the bud.
There are many therapeutic benefits to terpenes themselves – like in the case of aromatherapy. It’s well known Linalool, the terpene found in Lavender, is responsible for relaxing, sedative effects. In fact, research indicates terpenes may contribute to the overall effects of cannabis creating the differences between indica and sativa phenotypes.
How do I increase terpene production then?
Many factors contribute to terpene production. In lighting, UV-B light is primarily responsible. While the particular details of terpene production haven’t been discovered, studies suggest terpene production is linked to UV-B radiation stimulating the growth of a plants defense mechanism against UV-B.
Trichomes are the natural defense mechanism for cannabis plants when it comes to protecting itself from UV-B energy. Meaning, trichome production ramps up significantly when exposed to larger amounts of UV-B, and thus produces more potent buds.
Besides light spectrum, temperature also plays a key role in terpene production. During growth, the heat from artificial lights may contribute to the final terpene content of your plant. It’s hypothesized higher temperatures slowly ‘cook’ terpenes away, leaving you with a bland end product.
In that case, HPS and MH bulbs which radiate more heat are more likely to slowly ‘burn’ precious terpenes, altering the scent, flavor, and effect of your end product. Quality LED indoor grow lights are your best bet for achieving higher terpene production.
Research suggests red light, or lack thereof, may be a contributing factor. During the last few days of the flowering cycle, reducing/eliminating red light may contribute to higher terpene levels with no effect on cannabinoid production.
Beyond Lighting: Other ways to boost terpene production
Aside from lighting, many other factors affect terpene production. Curing & drying is arguably the biggest factor contributing to a pungent, flavorful product. Slowly drying your buds with a proper humidity around 50% helps ensure you don’t lose out on the distinct flavor profile.
To properly cure your bud, it’s best to fill an airtight glass container about 80% full of your harvest and seal them well. Open the container daily to let it fill with fresh oxygen, and allow the excess humidity to escape. Try to maintain around 60% humidity at this point. After the first week, open your containers once every few days.
The curing process should take anywhere from two weeks to even a month, patience is key! It pays dividends to wait a little longer, as the terpene profile on your buds will be much better.
Beyond that, effectively maintaining good temperature, humidity and nutrients for your plants will drastically affect the terpene profile of your buds. If you cover all your bases in creating a quality grow environment, you’ll more than likely end up with a tastier and smellier harvest!
Don’t be afraid to experiment with a dozen plants or so, leaving a few as a control and watch your terpene production ramp up when modifying different conditions or nutrients. In the quest for the highest quality cannabis, terpenes play a strong role in the end product. Sure, everyone likes potent bud, but how likely are you to choose it over another which smells better?