THCA flower is pretty straightforward: it’s hemp flower that’s cultivated using specific methods that yield a higher amount of THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), the precursor to delta 9 THC. Cultivating THCA flower can be done indoors, outdoors, or in a greenhouse, taking advantage of various innovations that have been developed to better predict and control the outcome of the buds.
Both home cultivators and large-scale companies need to know what goes into developing perfect THCA flower. For one thing, the flower needs certain temperatures to be maintained in order to develop the ideal cannabinoid configuration, and also ensure the right amount of THCA. Another thing that needs to be maintained is the right dark cycle, and that’s what we’re going to be getting into today.
What is the “Dark Cycle” and Why Does THCA Flower Need It?
All plants need sunlight – that goes without saying – but rarely do we think about the fact that they need darkness, too. You see, 24-hours of sunlight would not allow plants to essentially sleep, and even take a break from photosynthesizing while they instead rest and undergo certain respiratory functions. And, cannabis is a plant that has specific needs when it comes to how many hours of sunlight and how many hours of darkness it requires.
THCA flower has its own specific needs, as the light/dark balance plays a role in how the cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, develop while the plant matures. THCA also requires colder temperatures, as this prevents the THCA from converting into delta 9 THC, which, unlike THCA, is a federally restricted cannabis compound. If THCA were to convert into delta 9 THC during the plant’s growth cycle, the product would automatically be deemed illegal.
Dark Cycle During the Vegetation Stage
Now, let’s talk about the light/dark cycle, starting with the vegetation stage – in other words, the stage during which the crops grow prior to flowering. It appears that THCA flower can manage 24 hours of sunlight during this stage, although many find that the plant generally does best when it’s exposed to 18 hours of light, and 6 hours of dark.
Dark Cycle During the Flowering Stage
Then comes the flowering stage, and this is where things need to be modified. Once the plant begins flowering, that’s where what you do from that point forward will make or break the THCA levels in the buds. Once you do see THCA buds develop, a 12/12 cycle is best – that is, 12 hours of sunlight, and 12 hours of darkness.
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Indoor vs. Outdoor THCA Flower Growing
Now, keep in mind that this information applies to growing indoors, as this allows you to artificially create a light/dark cycle through the use of grow lamps. After all, if you are going to be growing indoors, you need to follow these rules, or else you simply won’t have quality THCA hemp flower. While home growers may be able to rely on natural methods for light – like placing the plant by a sunny window – commercial cultivators will need to exercise more control by using artificial light in the form of grow lamps.
One thing to keep in mind is that also, by creating an artificial light and dark cycle, you can grow plants year-round, rather than relying on the natural outdoor light cycles that change with each season.
If you do plan to grow outdoors or in a greenhouse, then of course, nature will do the work for you, providing plants with the ideal light/dark cycle every 24 hours. However, there is one thing to consider. Cannabis plants naturally start flowering in fall, in direct response to the days getting shorter at the end of the summer season. However, in some locations, this puts plants at risk, as this time of year also brings unpredictably cold temperatures.
The solution to that is a process called light deprivation – aka light dep. This is a form of increasing the dark cycle outdoors gradually, with a light-blocking cover, to mimic the progressively earlier sunsets that lead into fall. This tricks the plants into flowering early, before they are exposed to cold and potentially damaging temperatures.
Growing THCA Flower? Know the Rules of the Dark Cycle!
Overall, growing THCA flower, or any cannabis flower for that matter, requires knowing how many hours of darkness are required to yield a healthy, high-THCA plant. Thankfully, with innovative technology, it’s easier than ever for cultivators, both amateur and professional, to provide cannabis crops with the perfect amount of lightness and darkness around the year, to ensure more harvests than what’s possible outdoors, while guaranteeing the best THCA flower imaginable.