The Amazing phototron

You've heard about it, you've seen it advertised, but is it as good as it's cracked up to be?

For years you've seen the ad in High Times. "The amazing Phototron, the growing system that will double the growth rate of any plant, double the number of budding sites and double the potency." The glossy ad shows a space age unit filled with roses the size of your head and a bunch of technical jargon that would make an astronaut queasy. But is this thing for real and is it any good for growing pot? Marc tells me he's had quite a few inquiries about the Phototron. I've been using one for some time so he asked me give you the dope on it. Figuratively speaking?at least I think that's what he meant.

When I came across the Phototron almost ten years ago, they advertised it strictly for the purposes of growing marijuana. The technical jargon was about how this unit works to achieve high yields and the plant's maximum potency. The pictures showed the unit packed with sticky buds?the hard sell. I bought one.

All of the growing information that came with the unit was about growing pot. They no longer do that. In fact, the word marijuana can't be found in any of their literature anymore. It's too bad really, there was some great stuff about the plant and how it works. So here's a bit of the background story you won't get if you order one today.

The Phototron is the brainstorm of one Jeffery Julian DeMarco and his Pyraponic Industries, located in sunny California. As a budding young scientist Jeffery was studying the cannibinoid production of plants. Co-incidentally enough he discovered that marijuana was a good plant to grow. It had something to do with the plant being simple in its structure and easy to manipulate. More likely, good grass was expensive and no one would sell it to this guy in a lab coat.

Now, to do the research, it would be necessary to grow the plant "perfectly", with no environmental inhibitors. The plant would have to receive maximum amount of light, an Oxygen/Co2 cycle and exactly the amount of food the plant requires. The plant would be completely manipulated to cause it to achieve its maximum potential. But what you ask determines the plant's maximum potential? Turns out Jeff was asking the very same question. Well, there was only one way to find out? smoke some? er, lots!

Trading his lab coat for sandals and socks, Jeff headed for the hills in Jamaica. There he had local growers bring their wares to be smoked and rated for potency, in an attempt to determine why some pot makes you dopey and some makes you high. Well wouldn't you know it, Jeff figured it out.

After analyzing the samples, he found that there are three main components that make up the psychoactive properties of marijuana; THC, cannabinoids and cannibinols. It is a certain combi-nation of these three that produce the best high. So with this infor-mation in hand, and a head full of the "weed of wisdom", it was back to the lab.

DeMarco was soon to perfect the Phototron growth chamber and developed a system of growing he calls "Pyraponimetrics". Who knows what that means. There's Pyra in there so it must have something to do with fire and there's metric?so I guess Canadians can use it. The best way to explain it would be to look at their claims and how they attempt to achieve them.

Double the Growth Rate

The Phototron will arrive in three boxes marked "agricultural research equipment", (kinda makes you feel like Dr. Sumach). After following easy assembly instructions, before you sits a hexagonal unit about three feet tall. The six panels slide up to allow access and are coated to prevent seeing in while the lights are not on. The inside contains three U-shaped florescent lights and the panels are mylar coated to further reflect the light back onto the plants.

Along with the Phototron comes a bag of spagnum moss and two bottles of fertilizer. The first bottle is mixed with the spagnum and placed in the base of the unit. The other is mixed into a concentrated feed formula. Seeds are germinated in the unit and subsequently thinned to the best six plants. Let the growing begin! The lights are on 18 hours a day and the nutrients are administered in a prescribed manner. The watering is a bit tricky to get a handle on, but they sell an automatic system that works great. The method of watering allows the plants to take food as they want, no more no less. This is based on something known as a "low root to shoot ratio". As anyone who has grown without soil knows, as long as the roots are finding enough food they don't have to grow very far looking for it. The plant's energy then can be directed into upward growth. Coupled with the efficient light source and ventilation for Oxygen/Co2, these six plants will fill the unit in less than 30 days.

Double the Number of Budding Sites

While the plants are growing upward, instructions are given for pruning to increase the number of budding sites. As the plant grows, branches will grow from the base of the main stem leaves. These are called lateral shoots. At the end of every lateral shoot a bud will grow. If that shoot is cut off, two more secondary lateral shoots will grow out, thereby doubling the number of budding sites each time you cut.

You have to be reasonably diligent with the pruning, these plants grow so fast it's easy to miss shoots as the unit becomes a mass of intertwined lateral shoots. But with a little hard work, Jeff claims that you can achieve 1,000 budding sites?per plant. Even if you're not so good with the pruning and you fall short of the magic 1,000 budding sites, eventually you will get there. Since every time you pick a bud you are in effect pruning to create more budding sites? boggles the mind. The same holds true if for some reason a plant dies, the remaining plants will take over that space and will eventually produce the same amount. The prunings are very smokable and increase in potency almost daily.

Growing Pyraponimetrically

The Phototron is more than just a growth chamber, it is a complete system of growing. While the plants are growing and you are pruning, pertinent data about your plants must be collected. Plant growth, the amount of nutrients added, the plant's structure and temperature and humidity are all recorded. At the end of the first 45 days, all of this information and a sample of the spagnum is sent to Jeff for analyzing. I'll give you a moment to collect your thoughts?That's right, Jeff hasn't abandoned you, he wants to help you every step of the way. He doesn't care what kind of plant you are growing, only what you doing with them. Since you are telling him how much food you've given the plants and he knows how much was in the spagnum, what ever is missing must have gone to the plants. He will then adjust the feed formula for your plants and give advice if any problems exist. Records are kept through the first budding stage only, after which you are sent a two year supply of nutrients. There's even a hot-line to call if you get stuck. 1-619-451-BUDS.

The Yield

Once your plants have reached the top of the unit and your new feed formula has arrived, it is time to go into the budding stage. The lights are cut back to 12 hours on 12 hours off and at the end of every secondary lateral shoot a bud will grow. As the buds mature, you pick them, leaving the plants intact. At the end of the budding cycle the lights are turned back up to revert the plants into the vegetative stage and a 45 day cycle is repeated, up to nine times a year. Your yield will be determined by the health of your plants and the number of budding sites, but the Phototron has the potential to produce 6 to 8 ozs. of bud?every 45 days. To tell you the truth, I've never weighed the buds I've grown?just smoked `em. A rough estimate would be 400 joints.

Now let's think about all of this for a moment. We have six plants that have gone from germination through the first budding cycle in three months. That's pretty fast. Outdoors or under halides, you're looking at 5 months or more. But these six plants are only three feet tall. Under other growing circumstances they would be anywhere from 8 to 14 feet, yielding between 4 and 7 ounces per plant, per year.

In the same amount of time, the Phototron can yield over fifty ounces. Or the equivalent of 8 plants, requiring upwards of 30 square feet, under perhaps two 1,000 watt halides! In 30 square feet you could fit 10 Phototrons. Then where would you be??Up to your ass in buds.

Double the Potency

The potency of your plants is mostly determined by where the seeds come from. The Hindu Kush seeds you get from the Seed Bank in Amsterdam, are going to be a fair bit more potent than the one's you picked out of Mama Indica's Hemp Treats. Potency can be further increased by adding accessories that provide more reflection, thereby improving the efficiency of the unit.

Jeff has yet another claim; that the Phototron will promote female growth and in the event that any plants are male, their sex can be reverted during the next cycle. I've never had to test that theory, since all of my plants have been female... honest.

Cloning

When you are thinning your seedlings you look for the plants with the shortest inter-nodal length. This is the length of stem between budding sites. The shorter the inter-nodal length, the more room for additional budding sites. If a clone is taken, this inter-nodal length is reduced by almost half of that of the parent plant, producing up to twice as many buds. The clone will grow twice as fast and can have a potency increase of almost double.

The Phototron makes an excellent home for mother plants, providing a constant supply of clones for a "Sea of Green" operation. You can keep plants alive virtually forever. I have no personal experience with cloning in the unit but if the potency claim is true, then I would think that eventually you could grow buds that glow in the dark.

Cross-Border Shopping

The Phototron is available only in the States. You will have to send to San Diego for the unit as well as for your samples and accessories. This equipment is not illegal to import or possess, but it will come through customs and duties will be charged. My equipment has been delivered to my door, I did not have to pick it up. Nor have I ever had the police visit me every 45 days. I did read of a case in Ontario where customs tipped off the RCMP of a Phototron owner. The fellow was busted for cultivation and subsequently dismissed when it was determined that border-crossing information like this cannot be used when the equipment is legal. Jeff is doing his part by going legit and marketing to more of the main-stream. There probably are people who just want to grow roses the size of your head.

To Buy or Not to Buy

The prices range from $260 US to $400 US, plus shipping, duty and brokerage fees. An automatic watering system will cost you about $70 US. and the soil samples are $30 each. Considering the cost of weed on the street, the Phototron will pay for itself quite quickly. The unit is unobtrusive and can easily be placed in a closet.

Depending on how much you and your friends smoke, the Phototron can produce enough so that one might be able to stockpile to start a new batch when good seeds come along or to do some cloning. The system is efficient enough to experiment with developing your own strain. Think about it; maybe a nice stoney Sativa... crossed lightly with the sensuous Indica... with roses as big as your head.

Comment

More on the Phototron

The Phototron is a fine product, a superior, ready-to-grow solution for closets and limited growing space, and has improved considerably in the 15 years since the letter was written. But the claims about growth rate, budding sites, yield, gender, and potency should be taken with a big grain of salt for a number of reasons.

For one thing, it was written before the advent of modern "designer" strains and when contemporary growing techniques were still in their infancy. While the Phototron produced impressive results for 1980's technology, modern growing techniques and technologies have advanced.

For another thing, much of the entry is quoted verbatim from Jeffery Julio DeMarco's overly-rosy sales literature, and Mr. DeMarco was a bit of a flim-flammer. His product worked, but he was prone to exaggeration and tossing around the word "guarantee" in ways he couldn't possibly - and didn't - back up. His slipshod claims landed Pyraponic in more than its share of legal problems, nearly driving the company out of business.

This was all set straight in the late 90's with new management and policies. Forget the worthless hotline and the two-year supply that never came to be anyway, now replaced by superior quality control and no-B.S. support.

Pyraponic has made some improvements. The current product line boasts 2-3 times the candlepower of the original models. While it won't yield as much as a hydroponic operation, it also won't take up nearly as much space or use nearly as much power. Great for closet growers and small apartments, one unit should produce enough for most peoples' personal use.

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