PORTLAND — Legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado will likely create new demand for entomological research, according to consultant Alan Schreiber.
“The growers of cannabis are subject to the same pests as other crops,”he said during the recent Pacific Northwest Pest Management Conference here.
Historically, pesticide regulations were not a major concern for marijuana growers who faced criminal charges for cultivating the mind-altering crop, said Schreiber, president of Agriculture Development Group.
“This stuff gets hosed down with pesticides,” he said. “When you’re lighting up, you’re getting much more than THC,” the psychoactive ingredient.
Legalization of recreational use may bring more transparency to cannabis production — Washington, for example, plans to eventually start testing the finished product for adulterants, Schreiber said.
Faced with more scrutiny of pesticide usage, marijuana growers will likely seek out expertise to help with pest management, he said.
“Virtually everything they have done in the past will not be permitted going forward,” Schreiber said.
That’s especially true since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t labeled any pesticides for use in marijuana and is unlikely to do so in the future, he said.
Federal agencies, state regulators and land grant universities won’t be of much assistance to marijuana growers, either, Schreiber said.
To avoid losing their crop due to off-label uses of prohibited pesticides, growers will have to employ biological methods of insect control, he said.
“I think biocontrol agents have a tremendous potential, but it requires a level of sophistication the average pot grower currently does not possess,” he said.
Schreiber said he was alerted to the problem when a marijuana grower contacted him about a major whitefly infestation that threatened his crop.
Since then, Schreiber said he has applied for a marijuana-growing license in Washington — though he isn’t sure he’ll start production, he is interested in conducting research.
The state will allow the equivalent of about 45 acres of cannabis to be grown for recreational use, but economics will drive most of that production indoors, he said.
Indoor cultivation will allow for the harvest of six crops per year, enough to earn the “mind-blowing” sum of about $6 million per acre, Schreiber said.
This production system is the equivalent of a greenhouse environment that creates a “green bridge” for pests to continuously shift from older to younger crops, he said.
It will also create a major demand for crop protection, Schreiber said.
“I can’t think of a situation more conducive to pest problems,” he said. “Anyone sitting on $6 million an acre is going to want to protect that investment.”