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© iStock/druvo Canada’s RavenQuest BioMed prioritises innovation and scientific efficacy above sheer scale, could their research answer the questions the cannabis industry is missing?

While it’s true that Canada’s cannabis industry has been leading the way on legislation and acceptance of cannabis as both a medicine and a recreational product, what’s also true is that the industry still has a long way to go to reach the standards necessary for medical acceptance worldwide. This means consistent, repeatable cannabis that physicians can depend upon to deliver the same desired efficacy time and time again for patients or even recreational consumers.

Believe it or not, even in Canada where cannabis production and cleanliness standards are the highest in the world, finding a cannabis product that can be counted on to deliver repeatable levels of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids or terpene profiles is still an elusive goal that is difficult to achieve.

The pathway toward repeatable, consistent and yield-maximised cannabis leads directly through science. One company that is clearly leading the charge on the science of repeatability and product consistency is Canada’s RavenQuest BioMed. Understanding plant-microbe interactions

RavenQuest and Montreal’s McGill University have developed a collaboration to answer some pressing scientific questions about the cannabis plant. The questions are based on cutting-edge knowledge in the field of plant-microbe interactions and genomics.

Plants, like humans, are associated with vast communities of microbes that play an integral role in maintaining health. These microbes help plants by:

> Promoting growth using strategies such as improving access to nutrients and/or using plant hormones to stimulate growth

Helping plants fight off pathogens by making the plants more resistant to infection or by directly killing the pathogen.

The research from Dr Don Smith’s laboratory at McGill University 1 has contributed greatly towards advancing the understanding of the complex interactions between plants and microbes and has resulted in technologies that harness the benefits of beneficial microbes to improve crop yields. They can be thought of as probiotics for plants. Current research projects

One aspect of the current research project is aimed at developing microbial-based technologies for cannabis production. Together with McGill, RavenQuest is currently testing the potential benefits of three strains of bacteria on growth of hops. Why hops? It’s a close botanical relative to cannabis that can be studied and, unlike cannabis, does not require a licence to cultivate. So far, results show promise for improved establishment and early growth of hops roots when they’re grown from cuttings.

The short-term research goal is to determine if the effects on early root growth translate to increased biomass production at later growth stages and higher cone yield (for hops) or bud yield (for cannabis). Not only do these bacteria have the potential to increase yield, they may also alter cannabinoid profiles. Cannabinoids are synthesised by the plant as a way to moderate stress, and the bacteria are able to induce stress responses in plants, without the actual stress being present.

RavenQuest and McGill believe the application of these bacteria will provide a tool for altering the expression of cannabinoids and ultimately maximising plant yield.

At the same time, we are investigating whether the same beneficial bacteria can protect plants against infection by powdery mildew, a common plant pathogen. Powdery mildew can devastate cannabis crops and is a problem across the industry, because control strategies are not readily available. Beneficial bacteria could contribute to lower crop losses due to powdery mildew in two ways:

> The bacteria can activate the plant immune system and render the plants more resistant to infection in the first place – like a vaccine for the plants

By inhibiting the growth […]

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