What type of Cannabis testing services available in the market?

The Pros and Cons of LAMP Techniques and PCR Technique. Photo shown a sample of how to run a test in Cannabis plant.

By: Nathan T. Johnson, Ph.D.
There comes a time in most growers’ experience where they encounter a phenomenon that sparks curiosity. This can be due to multiple factors such as, “why is my plant looking unhealthy?” And “which of my plant strains are more potent in terms of THC or CBD? The question then becomes, what solutions are presently available in the market that will provide crucial information to address these important issues in terms of reliability, time, and cost.
Fortunately, there are several methods and a range of tests available to solve these issues. In the past, it was common to dispose of an unhealthy, sick looking plant without knowing for sure what the source of the blight was. Similarly, there has been little to no testing means a grower could employ to determine, which strain had higher THC or CBD levels. Historically, growers would simply wait for the plant to mature and observe tell-tale plant changes such as if the pistils have darkened and turned into a solid bud or if the trichomes (resin glands) on the buds have turned a white glossy color. However, new strategies have emerged in the Cannabis market in the form of: pathogen and genetic targeting testing.
As we like to stress, not all tests have been created equal. Similarly, a participation award does always reflect the best method or test available to growers. Growers do not want an underperforming but common test of yesterday that invariably will take weeks to provide the grower information they needed in days. As we all know, time is money and reliability is critical.
Like everything in life, there are pros and cons associated with every choice and pathogen testing is no different. Selecting the best pathogen test must be a grower’s highest concern because high crop yields require rapid identification of the specific pest to provide the most effective treatment and subsequent pest eradication. In the recent past, growers used visual cues to identify several common pathogens and this proved to be ineffectual because the removal method still allowed the pest to infect other surrounding plants. Regarding desirable plant products such as THC and CBD, several genetic tests are being developed. Genetic target tests may use a colorimetric test (changing color) to determine the potency of a strains THC or CBD levels. This method may give the grower a general understanding of their strain, but the problem arises when colors between strains are very similar and are too difficult to distinguish.
Luckily for growers, there are two methods that not only save precious time and utilize highly sensitive target gene detection currently. These methods are PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) & LAMP (Loop-mediated isothermal amplification) based tests. To summarize, PCR is a molecular technique the amplifies a genetic target region through the use of enzymes and various temperatures in a cycle. And so, PCR is used to make many molecular copies pathogen specific DNA or RNA sequences located in a plant or may also be used to detect or the presence of the THC or CBD sequences. Whereas LAMP based tests are somewhat similar but use a constant temperature instead of cycling as seen in the PCR technique.
So, it is decision time, should I use the PCR technique or the LAMP technique? This is where the grower will evaluate the pros and cons of each in terms of time, cost and reliability. While both these methods save precious time and can give you an accurate answer in a matter of days than weeks, they do differ greatly with respect to cost. The PCR technique requires an expensive machine that will provide variant temperature cycling, reagents, and the knowledge to program the process. The plus side with PCR is that this technique can provide quantitative analysis. The LAMP technique is a one tube reaction that requires a constant heat set at one temperature for merely several minutes. While LAMP can be performed in the field by an untrained person to tell you if your target sequence is present, it cannot quantitate how much of a genetic target is present
About the author:
Nathan T. Johnson, PhD is the CEO & Co-Founder of Verne Bioanalytics. He has a hybrid of microbiology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics expertise across 15 years for food testing, oncology, immunology, stem cell biology, animal model development, and plant related efforts. He has published peer review scientific papers including in prestigious journals such as Nature, Cell, and Science and held positions such as Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Takeda, H3 Biomedicine, and Mouse and Rat Resource Centers. He holds a PhD in Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, MS in Biomedical Sciences, and a BS in biology and minor in chemistry.
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About the Company:
Verne Bioanalytics is supporting your plants growing potential through genetic and pathogen testing. We provide in-house lab testing for your plants (WE-Test), support for other labs to run our testing process, and an easy to use, fast, administered with your own hands, high-quality plant genetic or pathogen testing kit: i-TEST. Verne’s goal is to help the world’s smallest to the largest farmers with their risk, productivity, and bottom line.
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