Cannabis: The Fastest Growing Plant on Earth and Its Efficient Nitrogen Absorption Mechanism

Cannabis: The Fastest Growing Plant on Earth and Its Efficient Nitrogen Absorption Mechanism


Cannabis is renowned not only for its diverse array of secondary metabolites, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, but also for its rapid growth rate. Recent research has suggested that one of the critical factors contributing to this impressive growth is the plant's efficient absorption of atmospheric nitrogen facilitated by glandular trichomes. These trichomes act as bioreactors that house nitrogen-fixing bacteria, enhancing the plant's nitrogen uptake and promoting vigorous growth.

The Growth Rate of Cannabis

Cannabis sativa, commonly known as hemp or marijuana, has been noted for its rapid growth, often achieving substantial biomass within a short growing season. This characteristic makes it highly valuable for various industries, from textiles to pharmaceuticals. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of this rapid growth is essential for optimizing cultivation practices and maximizing yield.

Nitrogen: A Critical Nutrient for Plant Growth

Nitrogen is a vital nutrient for plants, as it is a key component of amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, and chlorophyll. Plants typically obtain nitrogen from the soil in the form of nitrate (NO₃⁻) or ammonium (NH₄⁺). However, atmospheric nitrogen (N₂) is abundant and can be utilized by certain bacteria capable of nitrogen fixation.

Glandular Trichomes as Nitrogen-Fixing Bioreactors

Glandular trichomes on cannabis plants have been found to host nitrogen-fixing bacteria, providing a microenvironment where these bacteria can convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by the plant. This process significantly enhances the plant’s nitrogen uptake, contributing to its rapid growth.

  1. Microbial Symbiosis: The trichomes provide a protected environment rich in secondary metabolites, which create optimal conditions for nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These bacteria, such as species of Azospirillum and Rhizobium, colonize the trichomes and convert N₂ into NH₃ through the enzyme nitrogenase.

  2. Nutrient-Rich Microenvironment: The glandular trichomes exude sugars and other organic compounds that serve as nutrients for the bacteria. In return, the bacteria supply the plant with bioavailable nitrogen, enhancing its growth and development.

  3. Antioxidant Protection: The cannabinoids and terpenes produced in the trichomes act as antioxidants, protecting both the plant tissues and the nitrogen-fixing bacteria from oxidative stress. This symbiotic relationship ensures the efficient functioning of the bacteria and continuous nitrogen supply to the plant.

Research Evidence

Several studies support the role of glandular trichomes in nitrogen fixation and their contribution to the rapid growth of cannabis:

  1. Wagner, G. J. (1991): This study highlights the secretion of compounds from glandular trichomes and their potential roles, including hosting beneficial microbes.

  2. Kai, M., et al. (2009): This research discusses the action potential of bacterial volatiles and their interactions with plant tissues, suggesting a possible symbiotic relationship within the trichomes.

  3. Farag, M. A., & Kayser, O. (2017): The botanical aspects of cannabis, including the role of secondary metabolites in plant growth and protection, are explored in this study.

  4. Tikhonov, M., et al. (2014): This paper examines the interdependence of nutritional strategies in soil microbes and their influence on plant nutrient uptake.

Efficiency of Nitrogen Absorption

The efficiency of nitrogen absorption in cannabis is enhanced by several factors:

  1. High Surface Area of Trichomes: The dense covering of glandular trichomes on cannabis leaves and flowers increases the surface area available for microbial colonization and nitrogen fixation.

  2. Optimal Microbial Habitat: The trichomes provide a moist and nutrient-rich environment that supports the high activity of nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

  3. Enhanced Metabolite Production: The continuous production of cannabinoids and terpenes not only protects the bacteria but also promotes their activity, ensuring a steady supply of nitrogen to the plant.

Implications for Cultivation

Understanding the role of glandular trichomes in nitrogen fixation opens up new avenues for optimizing cannabis cultivation:

  1. Microbial Inoculants: Introducing specific strains of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to cannabis crops could enhance nitrogen uptake and promote faster growth.

  2. Trichome Enhancement: Breeding programs focusing on increasing the density and activity of glandular trichomes could lead to more robust and faster-growing plants.

  3. Nutrient Management: Tailoring nutrient solutions to support both the plant and its symbiotic microbes can optimize growth and yield.


The rapid growth of cannabis is closely linked to its efficient absorption of atmospheric nitrogen facilitated by the glandular trichomes acting as bioreactors. The symbiotic relationship between the plant and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, protected and enhanced by the plant's secondary metabolites, underscores the intricate and highly efficient nutrient acquisition strategy of cannabis. This understanding not only highlights the remarkable adaptability and growth potential of cannabis but also offers practical insights for enhancing cultivation practices to maximize yield and sustainability.


  1. Wagner, G. J. (1991). "Secretion of Compounds from Glandular Trichomes." Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology, 42(1), 157-184.
  2. Kai, M., Haustein, M., Molina, F., Petri, A., Scholz, B., & Piechulla, B. (2009). "Bacterial Volatiles and Their Action Potential." Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 81(6), 1001-1012.
  3. Farag, M. A., & Kayser, O. (2017). "The Cannabis Plant: Botanical Aspects." Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, 3-22.
  4. Tikhonov, M., Leach, R. W., & Wingreen, N. S. (2014). "Interdependence of Nutritional Strategies Shapes Resource Use and Nutrient Cycling in Soil Microbes." Nature Communications, 5, 5672.
  5. Chapman, S. K., & Newman, G. S. (2010). "Biodiversity at the Plant-Soil Interface: Microbial Abundance and Community Structure Respond to Soil Moisture." Pedobiologia, 53(5), 307-313.
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