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Cannabis Plants Turn Purple in Battle Against Disease, Could Save California Farms

Close-up photo of purple cannabis plants, representing a potential solution for California farms battling a harmful pathogen. The purple hue is a result of the plants fighting off the disease, offering hope for the cannabis industry.

Around 90% of cannabis farms in California are currently dealing with a serious problem: a harmful pathogen that can ruin the value of their crops, rendering them worthless. However, there is some good news on the horizon for these struggling farmers.

Scientists have recently made a promising discovery involving a purple-colored strain of cannabis that seems to possess the ability to combat the widespread plant disease known as hop-latent viroid (HLVd). This disease causes damage to cannabis plants and significantly diminishes their value by reducing the production of important compounds like THC.

A group of scientists from Medicinal Genomics, a company based in Massachusetts, unintentionally stumbled upon this finding when they noticed that one of their cannabis plants exhibited partial resistance to HLVd. Interestingly, they also observed that the plant turned purple as it fought off the disease.

Occasionally, cannabis plants can exhibit colors other than green due to genetic or environmental factors, including shades of red, blue, and purple. Purple varieties have long been highly regarded in the cannabis community, with sought-after strains like Granddaddy Purple, Mendocino Purps, and Purple Haze.

Kevin McKernan, the chief science officer at Medicinal Genomics, shared these findings at a conference in Florida, stating that the purple plant displayed a significantly stronger purple hue compared to a genetically identical plant that hadn't been exposed to the viroid.

While the reason behind this phenomenon remains unknown, it is speculated to be an immune response. However, the increased purple coloring was not observed to the same extent in the control plant that was not infected with the viroid.

At the same conference, Zamir K. Punja, a Canadian professor of plant biology, emphasized the severity of HLVd as a "major threat" to cannabis farms. His research has shown that infected plants can experience a 40% reduction in THC yield, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.


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