Is there any truth to the myth that growing cannabis outdoors is inferior bud?
There’s an ongoing great debate about growing cannabis outdoors as opposed to indoors. While prohibition took cannabis indoors, the recent wave of legalization means that cannabis is stepping out into the light again. Can an outdoor harvest match the bud quality from a controlled, indoor grow?
Truthfully, cannabis is already successful at the outdoor grow – since the first weed sprouted up in a Central Asian ditch eons ago. And once humankind got a taste for it, cannabis’ evolutionary journey and global spread took a very different route than any other plant. For decades, growers have cultivated these plants under artificial lighting and precise climatic control. And many consumers have almost forgotten that cannabis also grows effectively outdoors too.
If there’s one reason to dig into the debate around the potency of outdoor cannabis, then it must be around the environmental consequences of indoor grow operations. In a study published in the journal Energy Policy (2012), Mills, Evan. (2012). The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Energy Policy. 46. 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.03.023. scientists claim that producing one kilogram of indoor cannabis is equivalent to driving across the United States eleven times in a 44-mpg car. So, since we’re living in a time of increasing concern around climate disaster, now seems like the time to bust open a few of these myths about growing cannabis outside.
Myth #1: Growing Cannabis Outdoors Means no Top-Shelf Bud
The perception that outdoor bud is inferior to that grown indoors goes a long way back. When cannabis became a Schedule 1 substance in America, growers took a plant that flourished outdoors for millennia and brought it inside, away from the prying eyes of authorities.
Sadly, anyone growing cannabis outside in recent decades has had to contend with the associated consequences of being found out. This has meant long hikes into remote regions, less time tending to each plant, forced flowering, and an early harvest to minimize detection and theft. Additionally, the pressure to hide puts limits on finding optimal terrain for planting—not everyone has a fertile yet discrete south-facing slope available to them.
The result is that these outdoor buds were subpar. And many consumers got a taste for the more refined indoor bud. But, truly, the playing field was never level.
Without the pressures of law enforcement, modern outdoor gardeners now find themselves in a lot less of a rush. By pruning for optimal bud development, training the plants effectively, and having wider freedoms around where they choose to grow and in which soil, outdoor growers can produce top-shelf bud. And this is bud that competes with much of that grown indoors – at a fraction of the cost to both the consumer and the environment.
Myth #2 Outdoor Cannabis is More Susceptible to Pests
Disease, pests, and mold are all but guaranteed indoors for growers who haven’t got their wits about them. Between stagnant air or standing water, the indoor conditions often encourage proliferation of problems. Fortunately, outdoor cannabis isn’t predisposed to the same challenges. With a breeze aerating the crop, the formation of unnatural conditions that favor pathogens is less common outdoors.
For their part, consumers should be aware of the potential of ingesting the harmful compounds that some indoor growers apply to avoid such issues. While unregulated markets remain at risk, the legislation that exists in many legal jurisdictions ensures proper testing. No one should ever consume mold, pesticide, or solvent residues.
Myth #3 Outdoor Cannabis is Less Potent
By and large, this statement holds true, but it’s not an inherent characteristic of outdoor cannabis. Outdoor conditions vary considerably around the globe, and with cannabis being a globally consumed crop, the very definition of outdoor-grown cannabis is a wide concept at best.
Ancient landrace varieties of cannabis evolved outdoors over long periods of time. These formed a relationship with the surrounding area, and in effect, became a function of the climate, soil quality, and terrain. It’s easy to see why growing a plant that evolved naturally in the Hindu Kush mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan border might not do quite so well outdoors in Northern Europe or the Pacific Northwest.
Another issue is the definition of potency. If by potent, we mean THC content, then indoor cannabis will always be superior. If, however, we define potency as the presence and bioavailability of additional medicinal plant compounds, then it comes to mean something quite different. Plants often produce specific profiles of compounds that are unique to the soil, the altitude, and latitude. This learning will provide future medical breakthroughs.
Growing good cannabis is similar to famous wines of South Africa, Italy or Chile. The grapes in each area have their own unique properties. These are expressed through the synergies between soil, climate, and conditions of the area. When it comes to the medicinal value of cannabis, certain cannabinoids, express in greater abundance in certain geographical locations. One such example is the increased presence of THCV in southern African landrace varieties.
Location decides everything. Unfortunately, with little regard for location or genetics, growers can’t be surprised when outdoor grows yield less potent cannabis.
Myth #4 Outdoor Grown Cannabis is Less Flavorful
This myth holds little weight. Outdoor cannabis can be as flavorful as indoor cannabis, if not more. Just like a fine wine, there are several factors at play. Soil, climate, and the surrounding conditions all interact to define the terpene profile that gives rise to distinct flavors within the plant.
A study published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology (2008) Ormeño, Elena & Baldy, Virginie & Ballini, Christine & Fernandez, Catherine. (2008). Production and Diversity of Volatile Terpenes from Plants on Calcareous and Siliceous Soils: Effect … Continue reading underscores the role that soil plays in terpene production. Researchers note high quantities of terpenes, such as myrcene and camphor, in plants growing in calcareous soils. While in more siliceous soils, they found more abundant quantities of the well-known terpenes alpha-pinene and beta-caryophyllene.
The Revival: Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Cannabis is about more than THC, just as wine is about more than alcohol content. And while indoor grows can manipulate the plant to the nth degree, those who search out some quality outdoor cannabis may be surprised about what mother nature can turn up all on her own.
|↑1||Mills, Evan. (2012). The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Energy Policy. 46. 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.03.023.|
|↑2||Ormeño, Elena & Baldy, Virginie & Ballini, Christine & Fernandez, Catherine. (2008). Production and Diversity of Volatile Terpenes from Plants on Calcareous and Siliceous Soils: Effect of Soil Nutrients. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 34. 1219-29. doi 10.1007/s10886-008-9515-2.|