UConn’s New Cannabis Course Brings Scientific Rigor to the Art of Growing

As the industry demands increasingly better growing processes, universities like UConn are rising to the challenge.
UConn's New Cannabis Course Brings Scientific Rigor to the Art of Growing

Beginning next week, students at the University of Connecticut have the chance to take a pioneering new course in cannabis horticulture. The course, titled “Horticulture of Cannabis: from Seed to Harvest,” aims to train students in all aspects of the cannabis cultivation process.

Importantly, this course represents progress on multiple fronts. For starters, it is part of an increasing focus on bringing scientifically-proven and evidence-backed processes to the world of cannabis cultivation. Additionally, the course is part of a growing trend in which colleges and universities are beginning to train students to enter the legal cannabis industry.

UConn’s New Cannabis Course

UConn’s new cannabis course will begin on January 22, when the school returns from winter break. It is being offered as part of the school’s Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems program.

And according to primary instructor Matthew DeBacco, the course will be a breakthrough for UConn, higher education in general, and the entire cannabis industry.

Most immediately, the course is the first of its kind ever offered at UConn. But beyond that, it is also at the vanguard of a new trend sweeping across the entire university system.

“From what I can tell, this is one of the first courses to talk not only about cannabis, but to really focus on every single step in the growing process from seed to harvest,” DeBacco told High Times.

“We’ve seen other courses in different parts of the country that focus on the legality of growing, or cannabinoid production and how that affects the body. But this is actually taking a seed and turning it into a final product.”

The course is organized to map onto the natural life cycle of a cannabis plant. As such, students will begin by learning about seeds. Specifically, this will include such topics as seed selection and germination.

From there, the course will move into how to care for young plants. Similarly, students will learn about moving plants into mature phases including flowering and harvesting.

Along the way, DeBacco’s course will also cover such topics as lighting, indoor versus outdoor growing, plant nutrients, and much more.

More Than Just Learning From Books

Perhaps most interestingly, DeBacco’s course is designed to move beyond simply reading and talking about growing weed. Specifically, he plans to grow actual weed.

“We’re also going to have a grow tent set up,” DeBacco said. “Instead of just talking about setting up lighting and photoperiods and everything else, we’re going to have a publicly-visible grow tent. That way students and even the general public can come in and see the topic of the week in action.”

DeBacco was sure to point out that the plants he’ll be growing with his students are “research plants.” That means they will be hemp plants with no THC.

In addition to learning about and seeing the cultivation process, students will also be introduced to the business side of growing weed. To that end, the course will feature guest speakers representing different parts of the legal industry.

“I want to take a different approach than just lecturing at students,” DeBacco said. “Because ultimately, they’re looking for jobs. And employers are looking for educated students to hire.”

Advancing the Art of Cannabis Cultivation

In large part, the course is all about building a base of highly-knowledgeable cannabis growers. And for DeBacco, that starts with bringing a new level of scientific depth to the cultivation game.

“Traditionally, everything was word of mouth. Someone would have success and word would spread around and everyone would look at what they did and try to emulate it,” DeBacco said.

But, he explained, the problem is that everything was anecdotal rather than scientifically tested.

Much of this is because of legal restrictions. Obviously, when growing weed is illegal, it is very difficult to carry out sustained research into best practices for growing. Similarly, it’s very difficult to create proven or standardized growing processes.

DeBacco hopes that courses like his and others that may appear in other parts of the country will help address this.

“The reason why I’m going through this content is to tease out some of the misconceptions and misinformation that’s out there,” he said.

Importantly, DeBacco said this type of scientifically rigorous training will prepare students to solve some of the legal industry’s most pressing challenges.

For example, scale is quickly becoming one of the industry’s biggest concerns. In the past, imprecise growing methods were capable of sustaining smaller-scale operations. But, according to DeBacco, supplying an entire industry requires a more methodical, proven, and efficient process.

“I’m trying to get my students thinking about growing larger rather than small scale,” DeBacco said. “As cannabis becomes mainstream, we can’t afford to guess or be off. We need to understand this very well.”

He added: “I’m also coming from the perspective of making it as sustainable as we can.” This includes learning how to feed plants efficiently without wasting anything, while also limiting potential environmental harm.

The Growing Popularity of University Cannabis Courses

The course doesn’t begin until next week. But already, it’s off to a strong start. According to DeBacco, registration for the course filled almost immediately.

In fact, the course became so popular that UConn had to change venues from a smaller lecture to increasingly larger ones. Now, the course will be taught in the school’s largest lecture hall.

There are more than 400 students signed up to take the course—the lecture hall’s maximum capacity. And there are many more still on the waiting list.

DeBacco said if this first course goes well, UConn may offer the course, or ones similar to it, in the future. For now, plans are in the works for a summer online course, to be followed up by another course in the fall semester.

And UConn isn’t the only place to see cannabis-themed courses becoming hugely popular. A growing number of universities and colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada are joining the trend.

To date, there have been well over 10 schools of higher education that have offered some sort of cannabis course. So far, these include:

As UConn prepares to begin its first cannabis course, it appears that momentum for cannabis training at universities and colleges will only increase from here, especially as the legal industry continues to expand.

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