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Dec 7, 2022

Part 2: Deciding When to Harvest: A Critical Decision for Crop Success

Now comes the critical step of deciding when to harvest cannabis. Choosing the right time to harvest your crops is a crucial decision with far-reaching implications. It can determine the overall quality, yield, and success of your crop cycle. However, this decision is not without its challenges and uncertainties. Factors such as maturity, quality, available resources, and market demands all come into play. In this blog post, we will explore the complexity of deciding when to harvest and discuss the key considerations that can help you make an informed choice.

Understanding the Harvest Window

It is important to first understand the concept of the cannabis harvest window. In the case of cannabis, the harvest window typically spans around 30 days. This window can be divided into three distinct periods, each with its own characteristics and considerations.

  1. Premature Flowers: The first ten days of the harvest window are referred to as the “premie” flowers stage. Harvesting during this period can lead to lower quality and reduced yields. While the flowers may appear almost mature, the terpene and cannabinoid content will be lower, and the overall aesthetics may be compromised. Buyers often look for clear signs of flower maturity, such as color changes and hair shrinkage, which may not be present during this stage.
  2. Ideal Harvest Window: The next ten days represent the ideal harvest window, this is when you’ll know cannabis is ready to harvest. During this period, flowers reach their maximum potential in terms of terpene and cannabinoid content, yield potential, and overall quality and aesthetics. Harvesting within this window is the goal for most farmers, as it ensures the best possible outcome for their crops.
  3. Over-Maturation: The final ten days of the harvest window are characterized by over-maturation. This phase can lead to various issues such as increased mold and mildew presence, flower discoloration, and higher pest pressure. In certain cases, farmers growing crops for biomass or prioritizing yield over quality may opt to extend the harvest into this later window.

Key Considerations for Harvesting

Now that we have discussed the different stages of the cannabis harvest window, let’s explore the essential considerations for deciding when to harvest:

  1. Daily Field Observation: Regularly walking through your fields and closely monitoring the appearance of your plants is crucial. Look for key changes in pistil and trichome color shifts, as these can indicate the maturation stage of the flowers.
  2. Cultivar Days to Maturity: Understanding the specific days to maturity for each cultivar is vital. Some strains provide a specific day range, while others may give a general number of weeks. These benchmarks serve as a guide based on the expected growth and development of the plants.
  3. Previous Experience: Leveraging your previous experience, if any, can be helpful. Your knowledge of how certain cultivars have performed in the past can provide valuable insights into when to begin the harvest.
  4. Comprehensive Considerations: A wide-ranging set of considerations should be taken into account. Factors such as weather conditions, environmental factors, pest and disease pressure, available resources, and market demands all play a role in determining the optimal time to start the harvest.

Deciding when to harvest cannabis is a complex and individualized decision that requires careful evaluation of multiple factors. Understanding the different stages of the harvest window, closely observing plant development, considering days to maturity, drawing on previous experience, and taking into account various considerations can help you make an informed decision. Stay tuned for our next blog post in which we will detail the comprehensive set of considerations to consider when deciding when to begin the harvest.

Part 2.1 Decision Variables: Key Factors in Determining When to Harvest

The decision of when to harvest cannabis is a complex process that involves considering a variety of factors. From flower appearance to potency, de-leafing, weather conditions, mold pressure, availability of labor, planned number of harvests, dry/cure infrastructure, and intuition, each variable plays a significant role in determining the optimal time to harvest. In this blog post, we will delve into these decision variables and explore their importance in the harvesting process.

Flower Appearance: Aesthetics and Maturity

Cannabis flower appearance is an essential consideration in the harvest decision. The market has its preferences, and flowers that meet those criteria tend to fetch higher prices and sell faster. One indicator of flower maturity is the color of the trichomes. Clear trichomes indicate immaturity, while milky trichomes suggest ripeness. As trichomes turn light brown or darker, the flowers have reached full maturity or potentially over-maturation. Additionally, the presence of white hairs on the flowers indicates under-maturity. Aim for at least 50% of the hairs to shrivel and turn to a darker color for optimal quality.

Potency: Understanding Cannabinoid Content

The demand for higher cannabinoid content, particularly concentrated THC, has been a trend in cannabis markets. Harvest timing can influence the potency of the flowers. A fine balance exists between yield and THC concentration. This “ideal intersection” varies regionally, seasonally, and by strain. Over-maturation can lead to decreased potency due to the increase in overall flower weight while the chemical content plateaus. Experience and testing are crucial in understanding this intersection.

De-leafing: Timing and Considerations

De-leafing is an important aspect of canopy management. However, timing is critical to avoid diminishing the plant’s ability to produce high-quality and high-yielding flowers. Leaves are the plant’s solar panels or engines, providing energy for growth. Understanding The timing of de-leafing in relation to harvest is crucial. De-leafing takes longer than the actual harvest process, so growers must accurately plan their schedules. For farms where the crop finishes within a specific 10-day window, de-leafing everything at once is the obvious choice. However, in cases where crops finish in succession over a longer period, alternating between de-leafing and harvesting becomes necessary.

Weather: Current and Forecasted Conditions

The current and forecasted weather conditions play a significant role in the harvest decision-making process. Starting from September, it is essential to closely monitor medium to long-term weather forecasts. Harvesting may need to commence earlier than desired if adverse weather, such as rain, is predicted. Wet weather increases the risk of mold development. On the other hand, an extended dry and sunny period, often referred to as an “Indian Summer,” provides ideal conditions for crops to reach their peak quality before harvest.

Mold Pressure: Health of Plants and Pathogen Resistance

Mold pressure and the overall health of the plants are crucial considerations when deciding when to harvest. Healthy plants naturally possess better resistance to pathogens and pests. If signs of stress or ill health are observed, mold may become a significant issue. When outbreaks of mold, such as Powdery Mildew or white mold on plants, are evident, early harvesting may be necessary to prevent further spread. In the case of botrytis, which may not be immediately visible, additional measures can be taken, such as inspecting both visibly affected flowers and apparently healthy ones. Recognizing active botrytis infections is important, as sprays at this stage are typically ineffective and potentially harmful.

Availability of Labor: Impact on Harvest Schedule

Non-mechanized cannabis harvests require a substantial amount of labor. The availability and size of the labor crew determine how quickly the crop can be harvested. Lack of effective labor solutions can result in beautiful fields of cannabis going to waste. Sometimes, starting the harvest early is necessary to ensure the entire field can be harvested before the window closes or the season ends. It’s crucial to secure labor commitments and have backup plans in place to mitigate potential challenges.

Planned Number of Harvests: Optimization and Resource Management

Farmers have different approaches when it comes to the number of harvests they make. Some prefer a single cannabis harvest, while others make multiple passes on a single plant. Factors such as labor and dry space availability influence this decision. By maximizing yield per square foot, some farmers choose to do multiple harvests, taking tops first, waiting for further maturation, and then harvesting again. Planning multiple harvests may necessitate starting a little earlier to ensure sufficient time for subsequent harvests.

Dry/Cure Infrastructure: Considerations for Space Availability

The availability of sufficient dry space is a critical consideration during harvest planning. Farms have varying amounts of space, and proper planning is essential. Starting the harvest in the early part of the window ensures that it falls within the ideal ten-day period. Mapping out the expected harvest duration for each available dry space can help manage scheduling effectively. For farms with limited dry space, leaving crops in the field beyond their ideal harvest window or during unfavorable weather conditions should be avoided.

Intuition: Trusting Your Experience and Gut Feel

Intuition is a powerful tool that should not be overlooked when making complex and high-impact decisions such as determining when to harvest cannabis. Experienced farmers develop a sense of when a crop has reached its peak and will no longer gain weight or quality. Trusting intuition, combined with empirical methods and the

consideration of all the aforementioned decision variables, can help guide farmers in making informed harvest decisions. Intuition allows growers to rely on their deep understanding of their crops, the local conditions, and their own expertise.

In summary, determining the optimal time to harvest cannabis involves a careful evaluation of multiple decision variables. Flower appearance, including the color of trichomes and the presence of white hairs, provides indicators of maturity. Potency considerations include finding the balance between yield and THC concentration. De-leafing must be timed strategically to ensure the plants retain their ability to produce high-quality flowers. Weather conditions and mold pressure must be taken into account to prevent crop damage. The availability of labor and planned number of harvests influence scheduling. Dry/cure infrastructure considerations are crucial to ensure adequate space for drying and curing the harvested crops. Finally, intuition, developed through experience and knowledge, plays a vital role in making the final decision.

By carefully considering these decision variables, cannabis growers can optimize their harvests, resulting in higher-quality flowers and increased market value.


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