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Growing Salvia with Science

By John Clarke

What better way to skim over the sci­entific method than by talking about Salvia Divinorum!

Bman_​666, over at Salvia­Source, had the very noble idea of apply­ing a little science to growing salvia divinorum in order to dispel any myths or mis­con­cep­tions about it, and maybe produce the ulti­mate “How To Grow Salvia” guide for salvia cul­tiv­at­ors around the world.

Some of the vari­ables under scru­tiny are:

  • Natural vs arti­fi­cial light
  • Dif­fer­ent soil com­pos­i­tions / Fer­til­izer mix­tures
  • Effect­ive­ness of CO2 sup­ple­ments
  • Con­tained growing (with con­trolled humid­ity) vs growing out in the open
  • Will your TV kill your plant? [What?! — I suppose most sci­entific break­throughs develop from “outside-the-box” think­ing, so I’ll reserve judge­ment…]
  • Hydro­ponics vs Soil
  • Water­ing fre­quency
  • Misting the leaves vs not
  • Varying soil pH
  • Distilled/​bottled/​tap water com­par­is­ons

Noble goals indeed, but at the time of writing, Bman_​666 wasn’t quite sure what he’d be letting himself in for! The first page of the thread in ques­tion con­tained some excel­lent insight about how the results might be struc­tured within the forum, and some quick guidelines on stand­ard­isa­tion, which are both import­ant to prevent con­fu­sion and help mine accur­ate data. But there was one thing missing — repe­ti­tion, they key to any sci­entific study.

Perhaps they’re way ahead of me, I thought — we could all take repe­ti­tion for granted. Just to be extra vigil­ant (the, uhh, second key to any sci­entific study? It must some kind of many-keyed com­bin­a­tion lock, with iris scan­ners ‘n’ all. A com­plic­ated beast!), I posted my advice on using 8 – 10 plants per vari­able to test. So, 4 – 5 plants for the control and another 4 – 5 dif­fer­ing in a single respect (ie, watered with deion­ised water). It turns out they weren’t as far ahead as I thought.

At this point, I’ll just point out I had to explain the same thing to someone in the lab today. We were setting up cell cul­tures in order to add varying con­cen­tra­tions of a drug (ret­in­oic acid) to them to see what happens. For each con­cen­tra­tion of the drug (dis­solved in a solvent), we had a total of 8 cell cul­tures set up — 4 to receive the drug/​solvent and 4 to receive the solvent without the drug, as a control. Since the concept of repe­ti­tion seemed a less uni­ver­sal concept than I first real­ised, I figured I’d talk about it here.

So, back to this thread. My reply was the fol­low­ing:

Suppose your get set up with your soil cutting and your hydro cutting. If, for some unknown reason, the hydro cutting dies, all you can con­clude is that hydro kills salvia plants.

Or, say in 1 week your hydro plant grows 10cm and your soil plant grows 9cm (I have no idea how fast it grows; figures are arbit­rary). All you could con­clude from that is that plants that grow in soil grow 90% as well as those with a hydro setup. Now, sup­pos­ing you had 5 plants with each vari­able — the hydro plants grew this much {10,12,16,17,23} (average 15.6cm) and the soil plants grew by this much {5,7,8,8,9} (average 7.4) — as you can see this data sug­gests an approx 50% dif­fer­ence. Taking the tallest/​shortest com­bin­a­tions of your 5 plants, you could end up with a height dif­fer­ence of as much as 18cm or as little as 1cm — working with only 1 plant per vari­able can give you very inac­cur­ate data.

In reality, the ranges will likely be much nar­rower, but you should get the point. Even plants grown under identical con­di­tions will not develop 100% identic­ally, and that vari­able is one that you need to take into account, like any other (eg humid­ity). Because you can’t control that vari­able, the best you can do is elim­in­ate its effects by using mul­tiple data and aver­aging. You wouldn’t trust a drug that had been tested on a single indi­vidual, would you?

I hope that can high­light just how metic­u­lous you have to be with your research. Growing only two plants side by side is great for a fun, per­sonal exper­i­ment, but to further the col­lect­ive know­ledge in a par­tic­u­lar field, you need to apply a strict sci­entific method.

Bman_666’s main concern with repe­ti­tion was the number of plants he had avail­able, which is fair enough. But serious science demands a serious com­mit­ment. From an idea in the mind of a chemist, to an actual pre­scrib­able drug, phar­ma­ceuit­ical com­pan­ies have to spend hun­dreds of mil­lions of dollars on research, involving trials of thou­sands of people.

While the details may be a bit out, the Salvia­Source guys are cer­tainly making tracks in the right dir­ec­tion. If you have 10 or so salvia clones lying around, maybe you can con­trib­ute to this fas­cin­at­ing project? Be sure to get involved @ Salvia­Source!.

2 Responses to Growing Salvia with Science

  1. geheim says:

    i have been growing this­plant for over 24 years, and at 52 degress north lat, i find a dif­fer­ence then the ori­ginal 16 degrees north lat i ori­gin­ally started growing at, i have over 112 trials spand­ing 12 years, and in many dif­fer­ent erra and climes. I have even gorwn in south­ernhemispere, i find this plant pro­duces difer­ent trengths at the same volume, at dif­fer­ent climes, but never found the soil or other medium to be a big dif­fer­ence only in small details ph, etc.

    themain way to get the ori­ginal strength of the plant is to grow out the clones you have for 5 years, i did 12 years, then began my trials, then the last 12 years trials even ending this year prove that 16 degrees north latidue grows a stronger more potent plant rather then a 56 degree north lat plant gown in soil. again if you double the volume, you will still get the same effects. I also find the inter­net provides the most harsh ways of redu­cing the extract, using zippo lighter fluid you never need that to do the job, if you have had botany and chem­istry and biology, gime a break, you would likly kill your­self cooking zippo fluid and whatever other solu­tion they put in the days reciepe. I will advise I have only seen the plant flower twoice on two seper­ate plants in two seper­ate hemisperes in 24 years, one was white and one was violet or lilac colour in a stalk like fashion, i have a mother that is 10 years old and has produce more clones then any oth­er­plant I am con­tinu­ally growing, I grow every day over 50 new plants, and harvast over 500 pounds a year of leaves, these are all from frankly dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions around the world, with dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties.
    I hope you find this helpful


  2. Barry Buchy says:

    Hi geihem… I live in Win­nipeg in Canada (50n lat) and have started growing plants. Is there a certain kind of fer­til­izer you recom­mend.

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