Every grower should obtain a magnifying lens or microscope for their toolbox. These simple and useful devices can really help in every stage of a plant’s life, and even after. Lenses and microscopes might also assist those who aren’t growers, but would like to check the quality of a sample before buying the whole batch.

Deciding when to initiate harvest is one of the cannabis grower’s most pivotal decisions. Regardless of whether you are a seasoned hand or a newbie, a microscope will allow any grower to ascertain the ideal harvest window to achieve maximum yield and peak cannabinoid concentration. How is this done? By observing the minute trichomes on your cannabis plant’s flowers. By evaluating the trichome structure, transparency, and hue, you will know exactly when to make the chop.

A microscope, or at least a good magnifying lens, is also useful to inspect freshly harvested, dried, or cured cannabis flowers for mould or parasite residues. An electron microscope could even spot crystals of chemicals such as pesticides, but that’s not a tool for the average grower or consumer. Let’s stay optical and learn how to evaluate trichomes and recognise pests.

A CLOSER LOOK AT CANNABIS FLOWERS ENSURES A BETTER HARVEST

Every grower knows: the more trichomes, the better. That’s because these tiny “hairs” don’t just contain the terpenes that defend the plant from animals, pathogens, or harsh environmental conditions, but also the cannabinoids that humans have come to know and love. The largest trichomes will be visible to the naked eye, while most will appear as a white or grey fuzz on the flowers of ripening cannabis plants. All of them are involved in the synthesis of cannabinoids and terpenes.

The cannabis plant features bulbous trichomes, which look like small pointed structures; capitate sessile trichomes, bigger and flattened; and capitate-stalked trichomes, the largest type of trichomes, which develop during the flowering stage. A microscope allows a clear look at the colours and transparency of the glandular trichomes’ resinous heads, mainly depending on the maturity of the plant. In most cases, the flowers are harvested when the heads start turning amber and opaque.

EARLY SPOTTING PESTS AND PARASITES

The clever grower knows it’s better to take a closer look at the plants well before trichomes start to develop. That’s because eliminating an infestation, whether it’s mould, spider mites, or any other kind of micro-invader, is much easier when the population has not had enough time to breed and expand its infestation on your plants. Pests often go unnoticed until too late because at early stages of an infestation, there are few visible signs on the plant. However, with a proper magnifying device, it’s possible, for example, to flush out spider mite egg clusters before they turn into adults and start chewing your leaves. In other words, a magnifying tool can save your crop.

Cannabis Trichomes

PICKING THE RIGHT ONE

The process of using a microscope or magnifying lens to judge your plants is a mostly straightforward venture; point the device at a leaf or bud and focus to view trichomes, or to spot any form of life that’s not your plant. The higher the magnification of the lens, the closer it must be to the specimen. A built-in light is useful to better illuminate the area even during daytime, and also for viewing plants during the dark hours in an indoor grow without having the lights alter the perception of trichome colour (a quick flash won’t change your plants’ sex, don’t worry).

With a magnifying device, resolution is just as important as magnification. If your trichomes cannot be clearly viewed because your lens mixes up all the small details, the image quality will be poor regardless of the magnification. The resolution is determined by the light frequency and the lens quality. The shorter the wavelength illuminating the specimen, the greater the resolution. Light also affects contrast; the more intense the light, the more contrast you get, up to the point where everything gets “solarised”.

Learning how to use a magnifying device doesn’t take much time, while picking the right one can be tricky, since the market is flooded with poor-quality lenses of every kind. Here is an overview of the different types of magnifiers to help you narrow down the search for your ideal tool.

HANDHELD MAGNIFYING GLASS AND JEWELER’S LOUPES

The simplest microscope is a single lens, preferably with a decent magnification factor. Single lenses have a low magnification factor and a high optical aberration, which can produce distorted and blurred views, particularly around its borders. On a positive note, handheld magnifiers have a convenient wide viewing angle, and they are useful for a quick fly over your plants in search of “big” parasites, their residues, or small mould patches. A magnifying glass can’t help in viewing microscopic bugs, but it allows for a general view of the colour and transparency of trichomes—which is much better than relying on the flowering time indicated on your package of seeds.

Old-school jeweler’s loupes are the smallest pocket microscopes. Their lens (or lenses) is contained in a cylinder or cone, or it folds into a protective housing. Jeweler’s loupes are used in a number of industries, with some differentiation: simple lenses, compound lenses, or prismatic multiple lenses with higher magnification and less optical aberration. These tiny devices are very convenient for the grower, and some models come with an integrated LED light that’s especially useful in indoor operations. Jeweler’s loupes can also be placed on the camera lens of a smartphone to take pictures.

Handheld Microscope

HEADBAND MAGNIFIERS

These are convenient hands-free magnification devices that add precision and speed to several tasks in different industries. They provide binocular 3D vision with a magnification usually limited to 3.5X. They might increase work efficiency on certain jobs in the grow room, but they can’t be the only magnification device at hand.

Headband Magnifier

HANDHELD DIGITAL MICROSCOPES

Pocket microscopes are relatively cheap and very popular among trichome-inspectors. They are able to produce beautiful images and they provide magnification up to 100X. Most of them have a built-in LED light for clearer viewing, and some models can be used with a smartphone. The problem with these high-magnification devices is that both the microscope and the sample must be perfectly still. This gets frustrating when trying to inspect a flower or a leaf on a branch. Many pocket microscopes come with a base and a movable arm that is supposed to hold the device, but rarely does in cheaper models.

USB pocket microscopes are cheap and convenient, but they must be connected to a laptop or desktop computer. High-quality, portable, digital, stereo, cordless, and wireless microscopes connected to a computer and a big screen are also available for the professional, or for the trichome-porn fanatic. On the other hand, many people already have a smartphone and use it as a portable magnifying tool. Some newer phones can produce high-quality pictures by themselves, while others need additional lenses to get a better view.

Digital Microscope

COMPOUND STEREO MICROSCOPE

The classic, modern microscope has a series of lenses with magnification usually ranging from 10X to 100X. This device is ideal for viewing details of trichomes and other parts of the plant, together with occasional microscopic parasites. Of course, the specimen must be detached from the branch and prepared for viewing under the objective. The stereo tabletop microscope is not something for every grower, but it’s a must for both professionals and biology enthusiasts who want to ensure their grow is clear from pests, and that trichomes are just right before harvest. When researching cannabis, a decent microscope is also useful to analyse plant structures and trichome density on different parts of the anatomy. A “fluorescence microscope” is a version of the optical microscope that allows for enhanced details and contrast.

Compound Microscope

ELECTRON MICROSCOPES

Optical microscopes are limited in resolution by the frequency of the light waves. Electron microscopes use electromagnetic beams with a shorter wavelength than visible light, which allows a higher resolution and magnifying factor. Needless to say, these kinds of microscopes are pretty complex and expensive, and are probably not something the average grower wants to deal with or invest in. Nevertheless, they are a great instrument to study nature and the secrets hidden in your weed.

Whatever device you wish to use, any cannabis grow will be enhanced with the use of magnifying tools. An entire world awaits under the lens of your microscope.

Electron Microscope

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