“We’re hearing that some cultivators are starting to harvest early”
October usually heralds the harvest of outdoor cannabis plants, affectionately known as “Croptober.” But this fall, something more serious is in the air: smoke from the wildfires that are ravaging California and Oregon.
Fires are clustered in Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle” and a pair of Oregon counties, areas that are among the nation’s most important for cannabis production. Even if crops aren’t destroyed in the more than 5 million acres of wildfires, massive amounts of smoke and ash will take a toll. Darkened skies can stunt the plants’ growth, said Jill Ellsworth, chief executive officer of Denver-based Willow Industries, which cleans marijuana flower for mold in California and other states.
“We’re hearing that some cultivators are starting to harvest early, because it’s prematurely flowering, and they don’t want that,” Ellsworth said.
In a normal year, around 2% to 5% of California’s marijuana crops would fail mold tests, Ellsworth said. This year, she estimates it could be double that percentage as sunlight-blocking smoke weakens plants’ resistance to mold, disease and other pests. Even crops inside greenhouses could be affected.
The impact is expected to extend beyond the flames and haze. The fires will likely hit supplies and cause ripple effects across the country.
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