Triacontanol and Growing Cannabis: Miracle or Snake Oil?
Triacontanol has shown to really improve yields in all plants, but some are skeptical about its use. Chris Bond explores this amendment to better understand its ability to help cannabis crops.
As you peruse your favorite trade magazine, online forum, or local hydro-shop looking for the next best amendment to try, it is likely you have encountered the substance Triacontanol. It is not as ubiquitous to growers as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, or even pH, but there are many cannabis growers swearing by it. There are numerous online forums, websites, and untold amounts of advertising dollars spent to promote Triacontanol. But what exactly is it? Is it the panacea some make it out to be?
Triacontanol (often abbreviated TRIA) is a naturally occurring alcohol found in the epicuticular (waxy) parts of plants and can even be found in beeswax. For more than 40 years, it has been used in experiments, as it has continually shown promising results on plants. It seems to have a variety of different beneficial effects on a wide range of plants, not just cannabis. Unlike other nutrients that may serve one or a few purposes to a plant, Triacontanol is a substance that can stimulate growth and help plants reach their genetic potential.
Just like any living thing has the biological capability to be the best version of itself, so do plants. A plant’s failure to thrive is not usually a function of faulty seed, but rather a response to other natural and proximal stimuli. Triacontanol is thought to help plants through stressful periods and allow them to reach their botanical destiny. It does this in numerous ways.
How Triacontanol Helps Cannabis Plants
Primarily, TRIA significantly increases chlorophyll levels in plant leaves, which in turn improves the amount of photosynthetic activity, creating food for the plant. It has also been shown to improve growth and yields, while improving the uptake of nutrients and water in both “normal” and adverse conditions and trials. On a more molecular level, Triacontanol helps with up-regulation of biological and physiological processes in plants. It also helps with nitrogen fixation, enhances enzyme activities, and increases the flow of free amino acids and soluble proteins. Overall, it helps improve plant disease resistance and reduces the incidence of pest infestation.
There is plenty of research on plant pests and pathogens and what conditions are favorable for their development and success. It is thought that pests, for instance, can “see” plant stress and therefore have an easy meal. Triacontanol can possibly make plants appear “invisible” to pests as they help to stabilize so many vital plant functions. This theory is not yet fully vetted, but may represent part of the reason why TRIA has been shown to be such a symbiotic amendment to healthy plant development and high yields.
(Read also: The Benefits of Adding CO2 During the Cloning Stage)
The amount of actual peer-reviewed field and lab trials of Triacontanol on cannabis crops is limited. But it has been proven to aid many other more traditional crops. Several studies have shown the average yield of grain crops increased by 5-15 per cent with the addition of TRIA treatments. Additionally, oil crop yields were increased by 10-20 per cent and vegetable yields increased between 10 and 40 per cent. Other economically vital crops were increased by 10-15 per cent. Triacontanol also increases plant height, width, and bulk density, which is valuable for plants whose leaves, stems, or shoots are harvested.
The following is just a short list, gleaned from several different studies looking at some of the benefits of TRIA when applied to staple, herb, and other agricultural crops around the world.
- Tomatoes — TRIA increased the concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It also increased plant height, dry and fresh weight. TRIA increased the number of fruits per plant and weight of fruits. When applied to cuttings, TRIA reduced the instances of Tomato Wilt disease.
- Rice — TRIA applications increase respiration by up to 20 per cent and increased the uptake of nitrogen (in the forms of NH and NO3). It also promoted hydrolysis, hydration, and oxidation in leaf and stem tissues.
- Corn — TRIA increased the concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Cucumbers — TRIA inhibited the development of Cucumber Damping Off Disease and increased the concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Cabbage — When applied to cuttings, TRIA reduced the incidence of Cabbage Downy Mildew.
- Lettuce — TRIA increased yields with larger heads and leaves.
- Beans — TRIA increased the number of pods, weight per pod, number of seeds per pod, and increased wet and dry weight.
- Coffee senna (a pantropical food and medicinal plant) — TRIA increased the number of pods, weight per pod, number of seeds per pod, and increased wet and dry weight.
- Poppy (opium) — TRIA increased plant height, dry weight, and number of branches. It also increased number of capsules per plant and crude opium yield.
- Mint — TRIA applications increased leaf yields, leaf weight, plant height, and increased both fresh and dry weights. It also increased the amount of essential oils in the treated plants.
- Basil — TRIA increased the number of shoots, root lengths, number of spikes per plant, total leaf area, fresh and dry yields, and the amount of essential oil.
There is little reason to believe that many of these same benefits would not be conferred upon or realized when applying TRIA to cannabis crops, whether grown hydroponically, in greenhouses, or in the field.
How and When to Use Triacontanol
Triacontanol applications are effective when applied as a foliar application or directly to the root medium. It primarily depends on what stage of growth your cannabis is in at the time of application. When sprayed, it sometimes needs to be dissolved before use.
Make sure to thoroughly read the label instructions before using. It is also often touted as a must-have when rooting cuttings of cannabis and other soft as well as hardwood vegetative cuttings.
(Read also: How to Prevent and Control Fungus Gnats In Your Cannabis Growroom)
Unlike many other types of amendments and supplements, a little TRIA goes a long way. Concentrated applications of Triacontanol are typically administered in amounts of 10-7 to 10-9 M. In more practical terms, this means TRIA is generally used in ranges between 0.01 parts per million (ppm) to 1 ppm. This is not very much at all compared to other common amendments.
Skepticism of Triacontanol Usage
Not all growers, researchers, and producers of Triacontanol and related products view many of the published results without some level of skepticism. Some trials of TRIA have shown increases in yields and fruit counts by as little as three per cent which is not a statistically significant increase. There are many university and private researchers that have been unable to reproduce earlier published results on alfalfa crops that flourished after treatments of TRIA. There is some speculation based on a wide range of results that Triacontanol, being essentially insoluble in water and other solvents, is difficult to keep in a uniform solution, making repetitive tests of its efficacy suspect. Other researchers claim TRIA solutions will have best results if only in pH’s of 8 or greater, and only when in the presence of certain metal ions.
What to do with this information? Hundreds of peer reviewed studies have shown there are definitive correlations between the use of Triacontanol and increased yields, more floriferous plants, more photosynthetic activity, and overall healthier plants. There are thousands of anecdotal endorsements from average users, suggesting it’s a great addition to their regimen for cannabis crops and they find it improved their grows anywhere from slightly to significantly. It is certainly worth considering if you have had any trouble with your crops or just want to see if TRIA might be able to give your plants a bit of a boost.
Written by Chris Bond | Certified Permaculture Designer, Nursery Technician, Nursery Professional
Chris Bond’s research interests are with sustainable agriculture, biological pest control, and alternative growing methods. He is a certified permaculture designer and certified nursery technician in Ohio and a certified nursery professional in New York, where he got his start in growing.