Living Soil: A Complete Philosophy of Natural Cannabis Cultivation

by | Jan 30, 2018

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others. She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

Geoponics is not a new way of growing cannabis, but it has come a long way in the past decade. According to Av Singh, Ph.D, geoponics is all about bringing living soil back into the growing process.

An organic agronomist, who has worked with the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada and the Organic and Small-Scale Farming Specialist in Nova Scotia, Singh is one of the leading authorities on organic farming in Canada. He’s worked with small-scale organic farmers for well over a decade and has now turned his expertise to the realm of cannabis.

In the last few decades, soil-based grow operations have largely moved on to high-tech, high-yield aeroponic and hydroponic systems. While these methods serve cannabis farms in many ways, Singh expects that through innovations in geoponics, soil will soon be making a comeback.

The Philosophy of Living Soil

Geoponics is an organic growing philosophy based on the complexities of a living soil system. Living soils contain all the nutrients, beneficial bacteria, and friendly fungus required to feed a plant from sprout to harvest. In comparison to the high-tech soilless systems used throughout the industry today, growing in living soil is a relatively simple system.

That isn’t to say that the soil itself is simple, it’s far from it, but living soil takes much of the guesswork out of soil maintenance. Farmers can place their trust in the relationship between the plant and the soil instead of putting their confidence in a myriad of soil additives and their own perception of what a plant needs and when.

How Singh describes this monumental shift in thinking is through a living soil system, the farmer focuses on the needs of the soil instead of the needs of the plant. The living soil, which developed a relationship with the plant over thousands of years, can be trusted to provide everything the plant might need and at precisely the time it needs it. This new approach puts humility back into the farming practice.

Going Deep into the Science of Roots

Much of the science behind high-yield methodologies has focused on root management. The reigning philosophy is that the denser the root mass, the less available energy there is for foliage and flower development. Cannabis operations now spend inordinate amounts of their time controlling the plant’s energy, refocusing it away from the root system and onto bud development. Geoponics takes an entirely different approach.

The science behind geoponics maintains that the plant knows best, and a dense root mass development is beneficial for higher terpenes, cannabinoid, and color development. Root systems are essentially a communication and exchange system between the soil system and the plant. If the root system is reaching out, it’s trying to develop a deeper relationship with the soil. A better relationship means a better exchange of sugars for nutrients.

Cannabis transforms light into sugars; according to Singh, it could eventually send upwards of 50 percent of these sugars into root production. These sugars feed the living organisms in the soil; in exchange, these organisms feed the plant exactly what it needs at that specific moment in its growth cycle. The roots inherently produce the precursors to the cannabinoids and terpenes so desired in the final product.

Singh maintains that it’s essential to focus on root development during the initial growth stages of the cannabis plant. There are many benefits to easy-to-maintain watering technologies, like the capillary mat system, but top watering, in the beginning, is essential for full root development. 

Just-Add-Water Soil Mixtures

The American Cannabis Company, among others, has taken the collective experience of cannabis growers developed over decades and combined it with the deep knowledge of leading soil experts like Singh. There are many living soil productions now on the market that only require water and little else. These just-add-water living soil products, like SoHum Living Soils, take the guesswork and labor-intensive soil management entirely out of the picture.

Sohum Soils living soils cannabis soil

Singh advises using those extra resources formerly used for soil management into watering and plant maintenance. Unskilled labor is often in charge of watering; however, in a geoponic setup, watering becomes one of the most crucial aspects of the operation. It requires skill, understanding, and consistency to feed the soil properly. Singh also sees great potential for pruning and trellising to improve yields.

Results from Living Soil in Action

After shifting into living soil systems, the American Cannabis Company witnessed a dramatic change in their harvests. When compared to chemically fertilized crops, they demonstrated dramatic improvements in cannabinoid and terpene content, as well as the full development of the plant’s color palette. In their opinion, geoponics allows cannabis to reach its full genetic potential.

Singh’s research has also demonstrated that geoponics grows healthier crops that are not only pest resistant but also resistant to some of the most common crop diseases in the cannabis industry. Especially for organically minded growers, geoponics is a way to naturally overcome many of the most prevalent reasons for crop failure.

Many technologically advanced growing systems have broken the growth cycles of cannabis down into increasingly complex pieces. Geoponics turns that philosophy on its head, relying on the incredibly complex relationship between the living soil and the plant. Geoponics firmly places its trust in this connection, working under the plant knows the best philosophy.