Today, the University of Connecticut announced its plans to launch an undergraduate course on cannabis horticulture. Previously, UConn students have been able to pursue horticultural studies on cannabis through independent studies. But the new “Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest” will be the university’s first course dedicated to the cultivation of cannabis. And it was a tremendous student demand for academic training related to the legal cannabis industry that prompted faculty and administrators to design the course.
Horticulture of Cannabis Course Brings Together Professors, Alumni and Industry Experts
UConn’s Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture will begin seating students in the Spring 2019 semester. And students have a lot to look forward to. UConn’s Horticulture of Cannabis course will be one of the first-of-its kind for an accredited U.S. institution. Of course, multiple colleges and universities across the country have begun piloting degree programs and courses focusing on the cannabis industry. But UConn says theirs is the first course where the curriculum is entirely about the science of growing high-quality, medical cannabis.
Traditionally, horticultural programs fall to technical and vocational schools, community colleges or other two-year degree programs. Often, people just learn how to grow cannabis online and get an online certificate at the end of their training. Furthermore, amateur growers, or those with just industry experience but no formal academic training, teach these shorter or online courses. UConn’s class on growing weed, however, will be one of the first that an accredited university is offering. And instead of amateur growers, faculty will be internationally recognized plant scientists, trained educators and successful industry experts.
Professor of plant science Gerald “Gerry” Berkowitz will lead the cannabis horticulture course. But he’ll have help from several experts currently working in the industry, including one of his former graduate students. The course will also invite cannabis business CEOs working in licensed cannabis growing facilities and testing labs in the state.
Undergraduates Are Eyeing Career Opportunities in Cannabis
Prof. Berkowitz has been advising students interested in the cannabis industry for several years. He has even chaired several independent studies on cannabis cultivation. And he’s expecting his new course to be wildly popular with UConn students. As the course grows in popularity, UConn could consider adding advanced and graduate-level courses on the subject. Down the road, there could even be minors or major degree programs in cannabis horticulture.
And for Berkowitz, that’s key to making up the deficit between the popularity of cannabis and the lack of peer-reviewed research on how to grow it. There’s a similar gap between the industry’s demand for highly-trained, qualified workers and the quality of training options students can pursue. UConn’s new Horticulture of Cannabis course aims to close both gaps by giving students hands-on experience and wide-ranging exposure to the legal industry.
Students in the “Seed to Harvest” course will work with low-THC hemp plants, not full-fledged medical cannabis plants. Prof. Berkowitz has an entire lab of them. And students will get to work with different horticultural methods, such as cloning, transplanting and training different strains for their ideal canopy and flower architecture. They’ll also study quality control mechanisms like eliminating male plants and controlling pest and mold contamination.
Lectures will cover topics like cannabis genetics, selecting seeds, testing soil and grow media, modulating plant hormones and testing harvests. There will even be field trips that take students to Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, one of the state’s four licensed growers. And that deep training in cultivation means UConn students will have a springboard into the cannabis industry when they graduate. The course is open to all UConn students regardless of major. Best of all, there are no prerequisites to register for the course. But there will probably be a waiting list!