TIMING, DRYING AND STORAGE
Timing is an important component of all of this. A properly timed harvest/drying process can make or break a season. If a grower harvests too early, the plant will be immature and contain very little of the desired cannabinoids. Harvested too late and it could either run “hot” for THC or be more susceptible to bud rot and mold from late-season environmental fluctuations. Even if you time the harvest at the right time, if you don’t dry the material quickly enough post-harvest, it can spell disaster and destroy even the most beautiful harvest. Once the material is harvested and dried, it MUST be stored in the proper conditions. This means it must be stored in a CLEAN, temperature and humidity controlled environment that is exposed to the least amount of sunlight possible with good and consistent airflow. Not maintaining standards in any of these areas can and will lead to exponential degradation of your biomass.
Degradation of biomass is a serious issue in the industry and can come in many forms. First and foremost, there is cannabinoid degradation. Over the course of time, cannabinoids degrade into lesser forms. CBD, CBDa, THC and THCa all convert into CBN, a much less desirable cannabinoid. Given enough time, temperature fluctuations and air exposure, these cannabinoids will actually dissipate and precipitate into nothing. If the product is exposed to direct sunlight, open air, high heat and high humidity, the rate at which this degradation occurs increases exponentially. The absolute worst case scenario is wet-baled hemp left in the field. Being exposed to open air and direct sunlight (UV radiation), hemp that started out at 10%+ CBD can degrade to less than 2% in a matter of weeks!!
The most obvious form of degradation is the loss of the terpene profile. This is usually the first thing to go. Maintaining your terpene profile over time is actually quite difficult. “Curing” cannabis has hundreds of different techniques and there is no single way to do it. Terpenes are often in the form of gas, and the goal of curing is to find a balance between the plant slowly releasing it’s terpenes but not so much that they dissipate entirely. This is most important for smokeable flower. Uncured or improperly cured smokable product is unpalatable, generally extremely harsh and overall completely undesirable, especially for someone who is used to consuming high quality traditional cannabis. The only real way to preserve this over a long period of time is to vacuum seal the product, removing all of the air, and storing it in a cool dark environment.
Lastly, there is degradation in the form of mold and mildew. This generally occurs in conditions of high humidity and low temperatures. It can also occur if the product is either improperly packaged or insufficiently dried before it was stored. Mold and mildew can be a death sentence to a crop as it is nearly impossible to remediate out once it is present in your material. If your crop is to be consumed by people or animals then it absolutely cannot contain mold spores, especially the very deadly black mold Stachybotrys chartarum. Again, moisture is your enemy when talking about mold; so properly drying and storing your product is absolutely essential.
Mold and mildew can easily form on your plant even before you harvest them. Powdery Mildew (PM) and Botrytis (or bud rot) are two very common problems in cannabis. PM is especially prevalent in indoor grow operations, and once an outbreak occurs the only way to completely eradicate the problem is to clean and sanitize the entire building. Bud rot occurs during the later stages of a plant's life. It starts from the inside of the buds and moves outward and is usually due to lack of airflow through the plant. Once bud rot begins, it cannot be reversed and is more often than not a death sentence to the crop. Rotting bud doesn’t even make good compost , so once you’ve got a problem, you’ve had it.