New peer-reviewed research from US agtech company Dewey Scientific could lead to a reduction in the use of pesticides on cannabis farms by identifying the first powdery mildew-resistant cannabis gene. 

The study, published in Frontiers in Agronomy, said the PM1 gene is the first formally recognised disease-resistant gene in cannabis.

The finding has implications for the cultivation of cannabis as powdery mildew, a widespread pathogenic fungi, impacts the yield and flower quality of hemp and cannabis crops.

Dewey Scientific co-Founder and CEO Dr Jordan Zager

Dewey Scientific co-founder and CEO Dr Jordan Zager said: “This discovery and characterisation of naturally occurring powdery mildew resistance breaks important new ground, helping to elevate our understanding of the cannabis crop to that of other economically vital agricultural commodities such as hops, berries, or grapevines.

“The identification and characterisation of PM1 is the first step in establishing the next generation of cannabis cultivars that are suited both for large-scale production and optimal efficiency.”

Genotyping technologies for the study were provided by Lighthouse Genomics and Génome Québec and authors included Dewey Scientific co-founder Paul Mihalyov and Oregon CBD director of research and development Andrea Garfinkel. 

Mihalyov said: “Pest control strategies that require active management can be difficult to communicate and synchronise across vulnerable farms. Instead, using plant varieties with a naturally robust immune system can make a grower’s life much easier.

“Taking advantage of natural genetic resistance is also a more sustainable approach than the ‘spray and pray’ method.”

While resistant plants have occasionally been observed in previous research, this study was able to verify and track their genetic heritability.