Nitrogen – One of the most important elements of plant growth

Nitrogen in Cannabis introduction.

Nitrogen is in its essence a chemical element. On the periodical table you can find it on the right of carbon and on the left of oxygen. This is no coincidence. Any chemist will tell you that carbon and oxygen are the basis of organic chemistry. Nitrogen is very common in our environment. You can find it in the atmosphere, in natural water reservoirs, and of course in the earth. It has many functions through out nature. In this article I would like to introduce you to the role of element in the life cycle of Cannabis.  

What are the basic functions of Nitrogen in Cannabis?   

Lets start of with the fact that Nitrogen is considered a macronutrient for Cannabis plants, together with Phosphorous and Potassium. This means that it is one of the elements that the plant consumes in higher amounts than others. The reason behind this is the versatility of the element itself. It is used in a number of metabolic processes going on within the plant. I will describe the most relevant ones.

  • Nitrogen is one of the key elements that are the building block for amino acids, which themselves are part of the DNA chain of the plant and others build the RNA. So in order for the genetic replication to go on, at a proper level Nitrogen is essential. 
  • Nitrogen is one of the key elements needed for the plant to produce chlorophyll. From basic biology everyone knows that it is the green colourant in plants that is responsible for photosynthesis. What’s important to know is that during the changing of light energy into basic sugars, the chlorophyll is used up in the process. Thus the plant needs Nitrogen (and other elements) to make sure that this process goes on on the proper levels. 
  • Besides being a building block of Chlorophyll and Genetic Amino Acids, Nitrogen is common in other substances like some cannabinoids, flavonoids and others
  • Nitrogen thanks to its chemical properties helps to increase a plants resistance to pests, diseases and temperature stress.

Because of this versatility Nitrogen is considered a Mobile nutrient. This means that the plant can move the element around it’s organism according to its needs. This means it will always use the Nitrogen for the life sustain processes first. To give a simple example. If there is a deficiency of the element, the plant will take the Nitrogen out of the lower leaves in order to develop new ones at the top of the plant to promote photosynthesis. As this happens the grower will see yellowing, drying leaves at the bottom of this plant. Overdosing Nitrogen is just as bad as (or even worst than) a deficiency. Commonly referred to as “Nitrogen toxicity” and can easily kill a plant. It is the single most common element excess in the world of cannabis growing. 

Nitrogen is extremely important to the development of the plant as it takes part in many metabolic processes and is a building block element. As a grower it is a priority to understand the cannabis life cycle and how the plants needs for nitrogen change in order to correctly “feed” you plants.

Nitrogen needs of Cannabis Plants      

Seedling stage

During the first weeks the plants are so small that they don’t need much. In my opinion most growers overdo things at this stage. SubCool had this great saying “The smaller the plant, the less it needs”. 

Vegetative stage

In many articles you will find the definition of this stage in terms of weeks or height of the plant. In my experience I have found that different strains develop very different, so I started looking at it like this: when the root and main stem are developed properly and the vertical growth of the plant picks up tempo, that’s when I know my plants are in the vegetative stage. When this happens the plants requirements for nitrogen (and all other useful elements) gradually increase. This refers us back to the words of Subcool I mentioned earlier.

Pre-flower (Induction) stage  

During this stage in all cannabis plants we see the biggest increase in height and width. Logicically it is also when we feed the most Nitrogen. The plants develop branches and leaves that requires a lot of the element itself but at the same time all other metabolic processes are changing and going on. It is at this stage where most growers experience deficiencies or excess.

Flowering stage  

It is at this stage where the plants lower their vertical development and start to prioritize the production of flowers in order to produce seeds to ensure the survival of the species. With that the requirements for nitrogen are much lower than in the pervious stages. That is a fact. How much Nitrogen is given to the plants is of course dependable of the grower. Some like to keep their plants green others like the Autumn Colour Effect.  

Ways to deliver Nitrogen to your plants

The way you feed you plants depends first of all on the medium and growing technique you choose. If you will be growing in hydroponics or coco or mineral substrate you will most likely choose a liquid mineral nutrient that is has directly absorbable Nitrogen. If you grow in soil your have much more possibilities. The are many mineral and organic liquid fertilizers that contain Nitrogen and they are very popular with home and commercial growers. Fortunately there is a trend in the Cannabis Culture to grow organic. To feed the plants through the soil and not through the water. This also opens up a lot of different possibilities. We at Breed Bros have taken a long time to develop an organic pellet (that can also be ground up if the grower wants to), specially designed for the vegetative and pre-flower stage. It is quick absorbable and easy to use. If you like to keep things organic, give it a try. It does not impact the taste of the plant in a negative way. 

This article was just a simple introduction of what Nitrogen means to a cannabis plant. It is just one of many elements and we will try to introduce more of them in upcoming publications. The subject is way more complex than we can cover in one article so keep your eyes open, Nitrogen will come back as a hero again.

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