As if California cannabis growers didn’t have enough to worry about already.
Marijuana farmers in the Golden State have been broadly infected with a pathogen that’s actively reducing crop yields and the market value of cannabis, and the pathogen has spread as far as Europe, SFGate reported this week.
As many as 90% of California marijuana grows have been infected with a hard-to-detect pathogen, called hop-latent viroid or HLVd, according to a 2021 report by Dark Heart Nursery. HLVd shrinks cannabis crops by as much as 30% and destroys up to 50% of a marijuana plant’s THC, a process referred to as “dudding.”
Those findings were based on 200,000 plant tissue tests across California, and the nursery estimated about $4 billion in damage at the time to marijuana businesses and their crops. The pathogen is also affecting hop crops that undergird the beer industry.
HLVd was first detected in California’s marijuana industry in 2019, and the two-year-old conclusions mean the pathogen has spread even further by now.
A more recent study, published this past March by the National Library of Medicine, found that HLVd has morphed into “the biggest concern for cannabis and hop growers worldwide,” and that the pathogen is “widespread in cannabis-growing facilities across North America.”
Oakland-based Purple City Genetics reported that it found cannabis plants in Spain that tested positive for HLVd recently, evidence that the problem has spread beyond North America and could impact the global marijuana trade, according to SFGate. HLVd has also been detected in cannabis grows in Massachusetts.
But Purple City Genetics has also developed a new tool to test for HLVd, and is marketing the tests for $10 apiece to marijuana growers. The new tests provide results in a matter of hours, which can give cultivators time to potentially fight off the pathogen and restore their plants’ health prior to harvest.