What is Aspergillus?
Aspergillus is a type of filamentous fungus commonly found in soil, decaying vegetation, seeds, and grains. It does not require a living host, but can grow in dead and decaying material and harvested crops.
There are over 200 species of aspergillus, and they are very common. This is because aspergillus grows in many forms of organic matter, in a wide range of temperatures (42⁰-131⁰F) and in low relative humidity levels compared to other fungi (80 - 98%). Because aspergillus grows so easily many people breathe airborne aspergillus spores regularly.
While most exposure is harmless, some strains of aspergillus are considered dangerous and can cause infections, fatal diseases, and allergic responses. People with lowered immune systems are particularly at risk for dangerous mold-related disease.
Is Aspergillus a Concern?
Most people can easily avoid aspergillus in their homes by maintaining a clean kitchen and bathroom and keeping plumbing in good repair, but it can be more a difficult task in agricultural settings.
Grape, hops, and cannabis growers often have large amounts of plant material in one place, and aspergillus growth is always a risk. Harvest, storage, and curing are particularly susceptible stages for the crops, but infection can begin while the plant is alive. The fungus lies mostly dormant until the crops are harvested then rot develops.
Aspergillus in the Cannabis Industry
Some of the most harmful effects of aspergillus are caused when the spores are inhaled– this is a particular concern in the cannabis industry where the product is inhaled. The danger and prevalence of aspergillus has led cannabis-industry regulators to put in place stringent requirements to identify the presence of aspergillus.
The strains of aspergillus that pose the biggest threat to human health are Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger, and Aspergillus terreus. Most state cannabis programs will not allow product with any concentration of these aspergillus strains to be sold.
Many cannabis growers struggle with aspergillus, and some have had product recalls after their products hit the market. High profile examples in Nevada and Florida have raised health concerns that shaped the industry and its standards. “I have helped a number of operators deal with their aspergillus problems. Seeing product test positive for aspergillus can be crushing for growers. It puts their income at risk, and even worse, it can put their customers at risk if not treated properly – and a lot of them don’t know where to start,” said Darrin Potter, a nationally-recognized horticulturist and Terra Vera's Director of Market Development.
Stay Prepared, Boost Your Plants' Nutrition
To keep people and agricultural products safe from aspergillus, it is important for growers to keep a comprehensive integrated-pest-management regiment including: diligent disinfecting of work surfaces; proper PPE use; environmental control management; and avoiding moisture and condensation on susceptible surfaces.
Just like humans, plants with the proper nutrition have more robust immune systems. Using Terra Vera's IV nutrients throughout the plant cycle may help boost a plant's natural defense mechanisms against environment stress. It can be sprayed on cannabis plants even through the late stages of flower and post-harvest, making it a versatile nutrient for even the most sensitive genetics. When plants are already sick, GRDN Micro may be used to rid your plants of dangerous pathogens.