Trichome Development and Preservation

It's been a lot of time since I last updated this blog, but things have been quite hectic lately. Anyhoo, I've returned with the second part of my article series about the importance of trichomes on the cannabis plant.

In this article, I'll be focusing more on their development and life-cycle, throwing a couple of tips for the growers along the way. Enjoy!

Trichome Development

Trichomes have their own separate life-cycle, which begins as soon as the plant is induced into the flowering phase. As soon as blooming starts, the trichomes start to form and transport vacuoles and plastids from the stalk to the gland head. This mini-factory is what will eventually form all of our precious cannabinoids and terpenes

There is no surefire way of telling how fast or how cannabinoid-rich a plant’s trichomes might grow. As with absolutely everything else in marijuana growing, it is a combination between genetics and environmental factors. Although exposure to full-spectrum lighting can indeed aid in cannabinoid production, in most cases, the limits are genetically predisposed.

This micro-ecosystem is useful in a multitude of ways. The most apparent however, is that the life-cycle of the trichomes is by far the most reliable calendar for harvesting. No matter how thorough your notes or your timelines are, the truth is that every plant is different. Trichomes (and a really good magnifying glass) are your most important allies when it comes to harvesting marijuana efficiently.

Trichomes and Harvest Timing

The development of trichomes is imprinted on the changes of their color, giving an accurate depiction of the plant’s state at any given moment in the flowering phase. In the first few days of flowering, your buds will most likely be covered by trichomes, giving them an exciting sparkle. You might think that the time for harvest have come, but that’s absolutely wrong.

A closer look will reveal that the glands are still clear and transparent. This means that cannabinoids production has not yet started. On the other hand, when the glands start to exhibit a milky/cloudy color, it is a sign that a plant is ready for harvest.

From that point onward, harvesting time comes down to personal preference. As time goes by, the THC concentrated in the glands will gradually start to oxidize, giving way to CBD. The color of the glands will then turn to an amber-brown. Fluctuations between these two major cannabinoids is the key behind your buds’ potency and effects. THC is psychoactive, thus offering a more cerebral and unpredictable high. On the contrary, CBD effects are sedative and muscle relaxing, making it a suitable medicinal option.

A normal time to harvest (for full THC content) is when the glands are half milky white and half amber. It is important to note that not all plants mature in the same way. Research behind a strain’s heritage is equally important as caring for it in the grow room. Although small variations might occur between strains, determining the harvesting period through trichome coloration is pretty much standard practice among growers.

Taking Proper Care of Trichomes

Trichomes are extremely delicate and the slightest stressful situation can destroy them. As we have seen above, trichomes store what’s most valuable about our cannabis plants. Therefore, taking good care of them should be the primary goal of every grower.

Some of the factors that can ruin trichomes are:

  • Contamination;
  • Extreme Heat;
  • Light Burn;
  • Natural Degradation.

We have already stated that cannabinoids are not only produced in the glands; they are stored in them as well. Caring for the longevity of the trichomes is a challenging, but ultimately rewarding task. Avoid touching the buds with bare hands and try not to expose them to stressful situations such as the ones described above. After harvesting, it is imperative to follow proper drying and curing techniques.

Extracts and Hash

Some people like to prolong the life of their trichomes indefinitely, by extracting them from the body of the flower and turning the “kief” into hash, extracts or tinctures. Either with the help of chemical solvents or just plain ice water, the glands can be isolated and transformed into a much more potent smokeable substance that has an indefinite shelf life.

Promoting the Development of Trichomes

Concerning your part as a grower, the biggest bet is how you are going to deal with the buds after they have been harvested. However, there are some ways in which you can affect the plant’s trichome production. Let’s look at them one by one.

Make Sure your Plant is Healthy

Although this may look like a no-brainer, never induce weak plants to flowering. When you eventually do, use a tiny dose of Nitrogen supplement. It can prove beneficial in the long run.

Use the Right Kind of Lighting (Also, USE CAUTION)

A good; albeit unethical and a little bit dangerous way of increasing trichome production, is to expose your plants to UVB lighting. UVB stands for “Ultra Violet”. This kind of light is invisible to the human eye, and it is also, quite harmful to most living organisms on earth. Plants produce trichomes and resin partly in order to protect themselves from harmful UVB lighting.

In his “Marijuana Grower’s Handbook”, Ed Rosenthal also promotes the responsible use of UVB lighting as it is “critical to the development of THC”. You can actually get results from this method, but please exercise caution when doing so.

That concludes my article series on trichomes and the role they play in cannabis growing. Remember, only grow in places where it is legal and do not attempt to use UV lighting without using protective glasses.