Climate Change & Cannabis Crop Loss: What’s the Link?
New, severe weather patterns have impacted the United States in recent years. Temperature swings and more intense storms are becoming more common, so crops are at risk. Cannabis is no exception from this, and crop loss can impact the whole supply chain. Climate change is the driver of these erratic weather patterns, so how can the industry respond or handle the fluctuations of Mother Nature?
Understanding Climate Change & Cannabis Crop Loss
Changes in weather patterns due to climate change are felt across the country. Swings in the jet stream, changes between La Niña and El Niño, and increasing storm seasons affect every part of the country and every cannabis market.
Each severe weather pattern or storm presents a unique challenge for legal cannabis industries. Just as each state has its regulations to deal with, each has its own type of storm. Changes in California’s rainfall differ from the storms ravaging the Midwest or the wild temperature swings that plague the East Coast.
Swathes of burning land spell bad news for any farmer — but it’s not just the blaze that’s concerning. More common in the West, wildfires have always been a concern during the height of the dry season. But in recent years, burns have become stronger, harder to put out, and longer lasting. Smoke and ash produced by the fire can travel for miles, covering the sun and blanketing outdoor grown plants. A nearby blaze may trigger a power shut-off for indoor-grown plants, which could increase inside temperatures to dangerous levels.
Growers can take precautions by cutting a fire line around the property and keeping dry brush cleared. Some outdoor cultivators favor planting cover crops to provide a barrier, while indoor cultivators feel better with a generator. An irrigation system that can also be used to put out small fires can be helpful.
Hurricanes, Floods, and Tornadoes
Hurricanes, floods, and tornado risk cover a large area of the US. The South and the East Coast are a risk of annual hurricanes making landfall and the flooding that comes with them. Hurricanes have grown stronger in recent years, bringing massive rainfall, powerful winds that can cross 100 miles an hour, and devastating floods. These storms can rip up farms, destroy cultivation centers, and leave a massive wake of devastation.
The West Coast also experiences flood risk during the wet season when the ground simply can’t absorb the massive rainfall that lands within a few days.
The South and the Midwest face an increased risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Peak tornado season runs from March through May, but out-of-season tornados are becoming increasingly common. Massive winds, torrents of rain, and even hail are a risk. In addition to out-of-season tornadoes becoming more common, the areas where they touch down are increasing. Tornado alley in the Midwest and Dixie Alley in the South are growing, putting more people and businesses at risk.
In addition to the floods, fires, and earthquakes, the West also faces a water crisis. Droughts are becoming longer and more severe in between rainfalls, presenting a challenge for cannabis businesses that need to keep plants hydrated. Water usage, which is always a question, becomes a luxury during droughts, and businesses can’t afford to waste a drop.
Having multiple sources of water becomes essential for businesses to ration their supply. Collecting rainwater or having your own well can help lessen the challenge, but these supplies could run dry. Having suitable systems in place to monitor and manage water use is crucial.
Cultivators Face the Most Impact
While a lack of cannabis plants threatens the entire supply chain, cultivators are the first and most directly impacted by climate change, dealing with cannabis crop loss. A processing facility or a packaging company may be able to lose power for a day or two and still operate. Still, any time off the grid can be disastrous for cultivators. A tornado touching down in your field or a fire taking out your cultivation facility can mean losing months’ worth of profits and effort.
Though it is not all on cultivators to deal with these changes in weather patterns, they must be among the first to respond and plan. This responsibility means conducting risk assessments based on your location, keeping an eye on the weather, and always having a contingency plan.
If you’re in an area affected by drought:
- Can you collect rainwater or create a stock pond?
- How can you ration and re-use water, so you don’t waste a drop?
- Are new technologies coming online that allow you to monitor and measure water usage more accurately?
Understanding your exposures is the first step to covering them. If you’re in an area affected by hurricanes or tornadoes, do you have a backup generator, so your power doesn’t go off entirely? If you live in areas where wildfires are common, do you have barrier plants or a burn line established?
How the Cannabis Industry Navigates Climate Change
Changing weather patterns mean shifting growing seasons, and cultivators must consider future predictions when planning to prevent and minimize cannabis crop loss. Cannabis is a hardy, adaptive plant that knows how to survive. But survival can also mean adaption — for the plant and the people who grow it.
Adapt and Overcome
Adaptation may come in the form of trying new plant genetics. Plants that thrive in cold, wet climates differ from those that do well in hot, arid climates. Shortening growing seasons in the wet Northeast necessitate different genetics than in Colorado, where decreasing amounts of water lead to drier weather. This shift is not bad; as the market grows and matures, people will want more options in cannabis products.
It could also mean relying more on autoflowers than photoperiods to compensate for shortening growing seasons and combat pests and pathogens. Temperature swings and wet growing conditions can lead to mold and mildew, quickly ruining a crop.
Have a Recovery Plan
Covering your risk can also mean assessing your insurance policies and adjusting them for future weather patterns. Having property loss and crop policies can help your business ride the waves of unpredictable weather patterns and navigate any cannabis crop loss that does happen.
Cannabis cultivators cannot control climate change; even for indoor growers, turbulent and severe storms can threaten to throw a wrench in the works. But there are steps every cultivator can take to minimize property and crop damage caused by storms and protect your bottom line through cannabis crop loss. All it takes is some planning and the right people in your corner.
Protecting your cannabis company can seem confusing; however, we’re a full-service insurance brokerage. We work with carriers worldwide to offer you the best coverage possible. We’re here to help! Please reach out to us today by emailing [email protected] or calling 646-854-1093 for a customized letter of commitment or learning more about your cannabis insurance options.