As hop latent viroid (HLVd) threatens the cannabis industry, a new research collaboration promises to bring valuable economic insights to cultivators. AI-driven German imaging company SpexAI, Colorado cannabis diagnostics provider TUMI Genomics and California cannabis company StateHouse Holdings will study the relationship between viroid concentration, yield and quality in HLVd-infected cannabis. Goals include measures for early detection, yield prediction based on viroid infection level, and cost-benefit analyses to guide cultivation decisions.
The pathogen behind “dudding disease,” hop latent viroid causes significant yield loss and diminished quality in cannabis. The small, single-stranded RNA molecule can infect plants and lie in wait without obvious symptoms, making it difficult to control before it’s too late. Since its initial detection, HLVd testing, prevention and treatment have been at the forefront of research studies in the cannabis industry. But very little is known about how this infection impacts yield across various cultivars and how viroid load influences overall loss.
Focus on economic impact
The research triad focuses on understanding the economic impact of harvesting HLVd-infected plants at maturity as well as understanding how the growth stage at initial infection affects yield. This hop latent viroid research data will be used to establish a cost-benefit analysis of cultivating infected plants and help growers understand how the level and stage of infection impact this ratio.
“While HLVd causes major economic losses in the cannabis industry, we don’t really have a complete understanding of how much is lost to this viroid and how viroid load impacts outcome,” said Dr. Tassa Saldi, TUMI Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder.
“This research collaboration is really exciting because we will be able to use the results to shape guidelines and predictions for cultivators dealing with HLVd-infected plants. Knowing how the growth stage of infection impacts yield will allow us to fine-tune phytosanitary recommendations depending on predicted threats during clone, veg and flower stages. The data produced will allow us to help growers develop the most efficient, cost-effective pathogen mitigation programs possible.”
Strain selection and analysis
As part of the collaboration, StateHouse cultivators will work with TUMI Genomics to conduct research on HLVd. Their work will include selecting strains with stronger HLVd resistance and analyzing how viroid concentration impacts crop yield and quality. Multiple cannabis strains will be tested for viroid levels from mother to clone to vegetative and flowering stages and compared against non-infected controls.
TUMI Genomics will provide testing throughout the experiment using its validated pathogen tests and the TUMIGlow™ testing platform.
“Understanding and mitigating the devastating effects of hop latent viroid on cannabis production is not just critical, it’s imperative to the future of this burgeoning industry. StateHouse’s partnership with leaders in plant pathology and smart farming technology signifies a significant step forward in ensuring sustainable cannabis cultivation,” said Travis Higginbotham, VP of Cultivation at StateHouse. “We firmly believe that harnessing the collective technical expertise of this consortium is not merely an option, but a singular pathway to a resilient, productive and thriving cannabis industry.”
Integration of advanced technology
SpexAI will leverage Hugin, its pioneering multispectral imaging device, and Odin, its advanced deep neural network, conducting daily scans on all plants and strains. The ultimate objective is gathering data and revolutionizing early HLVd detection to preempt potential outbreaks. This proactive approach from SpexAI ensures that early signs of infection are identified, enhancing overall plant health and productivity.
“HLVd stealthily compromises cannabis cultivation. Our exploratory research at SpexAI, leveraging Hugin and Odin, aims to shed light on this hidden adversary, opening new possibilities in early viroid detection. It’s not just about solving a problem — it’s about pioneering a new path in the industry,” said Ben Niehaus, SpexAI Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer.
The collaborators expect their research results will have far-reaching consequences for the cannabis industry. Further understanding of HLVd biology, paired with the development of data-driven recommendations will help cultivators assess crop ROI, provide initial insights on the viroid resistance of various strains, and lead to more precise and efficient strategies for maintaining crop health and maximizing productivity.
Images courtesy of SpexAI