Chris Vaughn, a 15-year industry vet, now growing with Higher Minds Horticulture, was recently interviewed by the Growers Network for their Growers Spotlight. Vaughn dives in-depth about why VPD is a crucial new tool for nutrient and water management in cannabis farming.
The Science Behind VPD
Vapor pressure deficit, or VPD, is a measurement describing the vapor pressure differential from inside a leaf, compared to the air pressure of the room. It rolls air temperature, leaf temperature, and relative humidity into an easy to manage number. Growers experienced in VPD management understand optimal control of a grow room environment is about finding the sweet spot between humidity and temperature.
As plants grow, they transpire water vapor through the stomata (special cells located on the surface of the leaf) out into the atmosphere, thus boosting relative humidity levels in their environment. A basic component to the growth cycle for any plant is the movement of water and nutrients drawn up by the roots, through the body of the plant, and eventually transpired out by the canopy.
This upward movement of nutrients and water is nature's way of seeking balance. There is naturally a differential, or VPD, between the pressure of the rooms environment and the vapor pressure within the interior of the plant. Any gases trapped inside the plant are 100 percent saturated with water, and eventually, these saturated gas molecules are drawn out into an external environment.
Getting an extreme VPD under control will also control water and nutrient use. With a high VPD and low relative humidity, cannabis will naturally transpire water much more quickly. A dry environment will simply pull more transpiration out of the plant itself, drawn up through the roots. If the pressure imbalance goes on too long, and the atmosphere is too dry, plant's close off their stomata as a final protective mechanism to reduce moisture loss.
In a relatively humid environment, the VPD is low. The vapor pressure internally and externally even out. Finding a perfect balance of humidity and temperature, guarantees water and nutrient movement, but prevents aggressive waste seen in low relative humidity environments. Plants are generally less stressed, and more receptive to CO2 in the grow room.
The Benefits of VPD According to Vaughn
VPD management is an advanced growing technique, however once mastered can be especially beneficial for large-scale warehousing operations relying on massive AC units for temperature control. Air conditioning is a perpetually dehumidifying process, and can quickly throw the VPD out of balance if not counteracted with some sort of humidifying process.
Even greenhouses, which are generally humid environments can benefit from VPD monitoring. It can help growers maintain a perfect relative humidity throughout the growing season, and through the phases of development.
Once conquered, VPD monitoring enhances the usefulness of other elements of a grow room as well. A low VPD prevents cannabis plants from closing their stomata in an attempt to protect its water reserves; this naturally allows increased CO2 absorption rates.
Understanding the VPD at any given time also puts a grower closer in touch with the stress level of their crop. Remember, a high VPD generally means a stressed out plant, as it struggles to manage water transpiration, uptake, and low relative humidity. A happy plant applies nutrients more effectively, including any additional CO2, and will produce a better overall harvest. Vaughn believes it is crucial for trichome development.
Tips for Proper VPD Control
Lowering the VPD value generally means increasing the relative humidity, especially in large industrial warehouse operations. Vaughn advises readers of the Growers Network that higher humidity levels aren’t without risks. Growers should be wary of festering pathogens in a damp environment. Cleanliness is an increasingly valid concern in high humidity but low VPD atmosphere.
He also suggests operating a series of smaller grow rooms (or using a dome technique on clones), to maintain absolute and optimized control over the atmosphere. To manage VPD levels is to make miniscule adjustments in temperature, airflow, and humidity.
In perfect conditions, a grower will bring the cannabis crop through the vegetative stage with low VPD and high relative humidity. As the plants enter into the flowering stage, Vaughn suggests gradually moving the plants into moderate and then into high VPD. A dryer climate is essential during the flowering stage to prevent mold, mildew and other pathogens from taking hold.
Article courtesy of Growers Network