The nutrient challenge

In the last issue of Cannabis Culture, I told you about a Canadian marijuana nutrients company called Advanced Nutrients (CC#45, The Ultimate Pot Plantfood).
The information I provided about Advanced Nutrients was in the context of an article that discussed Marijuana Growth Deficiency Syndrome (MGDS), which is characterized by plants that grow poorly and produce low yields.

I wrote that Advanced Nutrients products might well cure MGDS, because the company’s product research, formulations, and quality control seemed to be setting a higher standard than that already seen in the marijuana nutrients industry.

The company makes its nutrients in a huge industrial facility near Vancouver. When I toured the facility with Cannabis Culture editor Dana Larsen, we saw how Advanced Nutrients’ scientists and production managers chemically manipulate essential nutrients to make them more bioavailable to cannabis plants.

We were also impressed by the company’s Sensi Pro flowering formula, which features separate pouches of targeted week-specific nutrients that are combined by the grower every week during the grow cycle.

Company founder Mike Straumietis explained that the flowering formula ingredients are kept separate until use, because some of the products are biologically active and/or symbiotic, and could be degraded if shipped pre-mixed.

When I started telling people I thought Advanced Nutrients had superior nutrient products, I got various reactions. One of my colleagues in the marijuana industry accused me of having “sold out” because the company was advertising in my magazine. He also alleged that “synthetic chemical” nutrients produced “chemmy,” inferior weed.

Representatives of rival nutrients companies told me that their products were superior to Advanced Nutrients products, but they could not offer any proof of that, and indeed, those company reps were unwilling to even let me state that their products were designed for marijuana cultivation!

Straumietis reacted to these criticisms by asking a Health Canada-licensed medical marijuana grower to set up a test grow room that compared nutrients produced by six companies: Advanced Nutrients, GrowTek, Canna, Supernatural, General Hydroponics, and Dutch Master.

I visited the grow room four times, interviewed the licensed grower and an on-site grow expert named “Remo,” and also examined records and videotapes that documented the comparison grow from start to finish.

The results were fascinating, so let’s examine how the different nutrients fared.

Berlin clones

The test grow room used a marijuana variety known as “Berlin.” This is a bushy, high-yielding, mostly Afghani-Indica plant that produces large buds and a powerful high. It’s very popular in British Columbia because it grows well in a variety of conditions and is easy to maintain.

Some marijuana is difficult to grow because it requires an extremely careful balance of nutrients administered with precise timing; Berlin is a resilient and forgiving variety that grows well when it has access to adequate levels of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and micronutrients.

“If a Berlin plant has problems with vigor due to nutrient deficiency,” Straumietis explains, “then the nutrients have to be very poor indeed. We wanted to be fair to everyone in this contest, so we chose a variety that does not have unusual nutrient needs.”

To begin the comparison grow experiment, the grow room managers made 48 clones from one Berlin mother plant. It is possible to introduce some unintended variation into an experimental grow room at the cloning level, because clones from different parts of a plant can have different growth characteristics, even if they are taken at the same time.

The grow managers minimized that variation by randomizing the clones so that all 48 Grodan-rooted clones were randomly placed in a single grow room that had six areas with eight plants each ? each area was designated for one of the six nutrients companies that were being compared.

The grow room was a professional, white, sealed enclosure with eight 1,000-watt Hortilux bulbs, a CO2 generator, and dehumidifiers. The interior temperature was at a constant 78 degrees F (25 degrees C), with humidity between 50-60%. The room was monitored 24 hours a day to guard against any environmental variations.

After the clones were thoroughly rooted, they were placed into one-gallon pots containing Sunshine Mix #4, which is a popular BC growing medium that contains peat moss, sphagnum moss, perlite and other components.

The newly-repotted, rooted clones were immediately placed on a fertilizer regimen that followed the written instructions for vegetative growth fertilizers as provided by each company.

After the plants had been in 18-hour light per day vegetative growth for seven weeks, they were placed on a flowering schedule and the growers followed the bloom formula protocols specified by each company. At the start of the flowering period, the plants were transferred from one-gallon pots to seven-gallon pots filled with Sunshine Mix #4.

The grow room supervisors claim that they did not modify any of the company’s nutrient protocols, and they made sure that pH and PPM were uniformly maintained so that water supplies, nutrient density, and pH were identical during the test.

Not all the same

Remo said that he was surprised to see that there were big differences in how the plants were growing.

“I’ve seen a lot of problems in grow rooms, but I had never seen a situation in which identical clones began to look not identical. By the time we got to the flowering cycle, it looked like we had three or four varieties of plants in that room, even though all clones had come from the same plant,” Remo explained. “It wasn’t as bad as having Indica-fat leaves start looking like Sativa leaves or anything that drastic, but the leaf shapes on some of the plants were totally different than the leaves on the mother plant, as were the branching and growth patterns. It just shows you how nutrients affect the look of a plant.”

There were other differences as well, Remo says. During vegetative phase, some of the plants under different nutrient regimes exhibited symptoms of deficiencies in elements such as calcium, zinc, potassium, and manganese.

The same problems manifested under flowering, with symptoms related to deficiencies in elements such as phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, manganese and potassium.

In both phases, the Advanced Nutrients plants exhibited the most robust and uniform growth. The only problem visible was a small amount of leaf tip burning.

Some nutrient formulas had even worse problems.

“We were shocked by what happened with the Dutch Master plants. They got really dark green and the leaves curled over all weird. They didn’t even look like Berlin clones anymore. And they dwarfed out and just stopped growing. They looked like mutants!”

Unjustified cynicism?

When I visited the comparison grow room during the fifth week of the flowering cycle, it was obvious that one set of plants ? the Advanced Nutrients set ? were the healthiest and biggest in the room.

I realized that cynical people would accuse the grow room managers of manipulating the grow environment so Advanced Nutrients would win, but Straumietis says he used the comparison grow for product research and development purposes, not as a scam situation designed to make his company look best.

“We are totally open to the possibility that some other company might make better products than we do,” he said. “If somebody else had products that grew better cannabis than ours did, I would be interested in that because I am all about growing the best cannabis. I would also try to figure out how their products were better than ours, and make our products the best. Some people say that’s greedy or competitive, but that’s how products improve ? different people try to make better stuff than the other guy, right?”

As it turned out, Straumietis didn’t have much to fear from the other big nutrient companies.

In vegetative and bloom cycles, Advanced Nutrients plants outperformed the other plants. They were the tallest and healthiest. Their leaves were green without being too dark or light, and their buds were both longer and thicker than the buds from any other plants. However, their plants had a small amount of tip burning, which Straumietis said was because his formulation is at the upper end of the PPM scale.

“I found the that the Advanced Nutrients products were easiest to use,” said Remo. “They have it all in one package and it self-adjusts for pH. What happened when we measured the harvest didn’t really surprise me.”

Weigh way more

Harvest day came 14 weeks after the clones were rooted.

“Our plants outdistanced the second place finisher by 65%,” Straumietis said, after explaining how all the buds were cut and cured the same way. “Our six plants with one light produced 2.16 pounds of bud. We did two other comparisons. In one we took a 454-gram sample from each group and made water hash out of it. Our bud produced 12 grams of extracted glands, while Grow-Tek’s came in second with 11.3 grams; even though they were the smallest plants overall.”

Straumietis says he ran another comparison test that measured percentages of three cannabinoids. Again, Advanced Nutrients came out on top, producing 21.2% THC, and very low percentages of two other cannabinoids (cannabinol and cannabidiol, known as CBN and CBD), that limit marijuana’s psychoactive effects.

The second place finisher in the cannabinoid percentage category was GrowTek, which produced 18.7% THC while also producing a whopping 9.09% CBD and 5.84% CBD. While CBD and CBN have some medical applications which THC does not, in practical terms important to those who want potent recreational marijuana, these cannabinoids can also reduce the psychoactive effects of THC.

The nutrient challenge

It’s now obvious that not all nutrients are the same. A grower can do everything right in regards to lighting, climate control and genetics, and still have crop failure.

There will still be those who believe Advanced Nutrients rigged the grow test, or that the results were tainted because the grow was not run by a neutral, third-party agricultural testing service, or that the results were from a one-time grow situation that might not be generalizable for other grow situations.

Straumietis says he tried to find a third-party testing service to run the grow op for him, but that all of the ones he contacted refused to test nutrients when they were being used to grow marijuana plants.

“There are always going to be doubters,” Straumietis says, “and we expect that. We have issued a worldwide challenge to all nutrients companies, asking them to share the cost and the work involved in doing more nutrient competitions. None have taken us up on our offer, even though many have criticized our intentions and products.

“If we’re not making the best nutrients available, we want to know about it,” concluded Straumietis. “We think we are, and we think the grow room contest proved it. If somebody wants to prove us wrong, let’s set up a grow room and compete head to head. We’re sure Advanced Nutrients will produce higher yields of more potent buds. If somebody doesn’t believe that, let’s grow plants side by side. We’re ready for the competition. Bring it on!”

? Advanced Nutrients:
? In Canada:
? In the US: 1-888-222-4765;



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  10. Anonymous on

    sorry but most of your info is incorrect and it doesnt make any sense what you are saying. nobody who has a sealed room is a “rookie” and nobody is going to stop growing as a caregiver just because they have a nutrients supply problem. all you do is use a different brand of nutrients until you can go back to what you believe you are missing. i too am in california and have seen how the fertilizer police are messing with hydroponics stores and companies like advanced.
    but it never prevented me from getting my base nutrients and additives like you are claiming and also it was only the labels that change in most cases or actually their (advanced nutrients) products were made better. so almost your entire post rings false and that’s easy to see. one thing you did get right is that advanced nutrients has way more stuff in it than general hydrophonics or the other brands.

    what’s funny is that the brands that you are recommending are not going to work in most hydroponics systems and are all newbees and wannabees who have not proven themselves to anybody. and since u are so dedicated to the medical community i want you to tell me which of those nutrients brands stands with the medical cannabis community like advanced nutrients does. that’s right- the answer is NONE. and neither do you.

  11. Anonymous on

    i am a full spectrum, organic, hydro medical cannabis caregiver who pays close attention to quality and grows in a sealed environment. i used to have great success as a rookie gardener using advanced nutrients and as my knowledge of products and nutrients expanded so did my line up. ideally i now try to use made in america products who provide all nutrient information for their products.

    big mike and an used to have a very informative website and superior products but that has changed for the worse. because an did not comply with california laws, they had to remove certain products from shelves and i was completely reliant on an nutes at the time. thats when the waiting game started, and my emails to an were never answered and every grow shop was in the dark as well. i made due til my cycle ended and took a break for a while to re-configure. an was back on the shelves, and i was back in the garden….but the previous success i had known was gone, and so were my dependable canadian nutrients. i can state from personal experience that the following nutrients from advanced nutrients have changed….
    CAL MAG GROW now has more nitrogen, is lacking several of its previous trace elements such as boron and molybendum and is now brown instead of its antifreeze green
    NIRVANA no longer contains or claims to contain willow bark, which has been one of my essential keys to success in young plants, and i cannot find a replacement
    RHINO SKIN is no longer k13 it now has dramatically less potassium and i believe is derived from a different source.

    all of these changes had a negative impact on my plants but no more than my constant experimentation in finding the right combinations.
    any company who changes product formulas without notification, is forced to remove products from shelves for illegal labeling practices, leaves their customers and distributors in the dark, all while participating in a community that provides medicine deserves to be boycotted until business practices improve or they are driven out of business. i encourage all growers to use some good ol’ made in the us products and support the companies who did not have to remove their products from shelves. i have found great success with biothrive, silica blast, oregonism, and several other products from roots organics, general organics, humboldt nutrients and natures nectar.
    i am compliant with all california laws and regs regarding medical cannabis cultivation and this post is not grow advice but rather product and company experience descriptions.

  12. Anonymous on

    Thanks for the article, I tried Advanced in my OGKush garden and compared to the GH I was using before the Advanced is the absolute best in every way so that’s settled for me. Kicks a** and is clearly for the marijuana grower, not tomatoes!!

  13. eta on

    hello harris, any way you would consider contacting me via email. i wanted to discuss your formula, whether you were running the recommended doses or varying. kinda personal stuff, so i understand if you decide to stay silent, but if you want to show a little love, please email me [email protected]. thank you for your time, eta

  14. Anonymous on

    First of all lets give thanks to Marc Emery and say a prayer for him a prisoner of the war. He is the one who created this website for us. Now on to the topic I live in Cal near two very large hydroponics stores. They told me that what happened is that the California government people decided to come down hard on the hydroponics nutrients industry so that they could make more money off of it with the companies having to pay for a labeling license to sell nutrients. Sounds like another bogus government scam to me but whats new, The government is greedy, they also want to tax my herb. So the nutrients companies had to change their labels in a hurry to get the government people off their backs but what I consider the most important is that the hydroponics store guys who sell all kinds of nutrients not just Advanced nutrients told me that the Advanced system is the one that their most successful and in the know customers are using. “That guy who is buying ten digital ballasts and a pallet of rockwool is the one who is buying Advanced and loving it.” I hope this helps the discussion and I too look forward to reading more of us who are looking for the ferts that are going to kick down the biggest kindest budz!! I personally don’t care who makes it if it grows the dankest I want to know.

  15. CJ3 on

    Thanks, Urkel, and if anybody else commenting wants to see what an intelligent grower sounds like, Urkel is a good model. Anyways, I am very concerned to see that the Bud Candy I love which has vitamins, aminos, and potassium may well be no more. I don’t like coco coir at all so that’s not a factor for me. I am surprised also about the Big Bud and Hammerhead although I don’t use Hammer head I use Kushie Kush, Big Bud, then Overdrive. You are right about Big Mike from Advanced being very honest- he even admitted that the roots excelleurator beat his similar product even though it is not made by him, so that shows that this guy is loyal to us not his profits. however i recommend you to use the advanced voodoo, piranha and tarantula liquids along with roots excelleruartor. It is easy to get a tech person from advanced to walk you through your grow and give you specific info about the products to get you the hugest yields so I will call them and ask about what you said. I have heard mixed messages about H&G the last one being that they used to be the shit but now are not so good. what we need is a third party testing lab to compete grow all these company’s fertilizers on the same strains in a fair grow-off and then tell us the results. Big Mike offered a challenge to the other companys to do that but they are all hypocrites, too scared. Urkel thanks again and please keep us posted.

  16. Urkel on

    I’d like to say a few things before I even read the article after reading these comments. I’ve used GH,Botanicare,Cutting Edge Solutions and Fox Farm that was when I started out 3 years ago. I was told to stay away from AN as my friend tried it and followed the chart and burnt the shit out of his plants but luckily saved with Flora Nova. Which he is still using today, however he recently started adding Bud Candy to his mix and instantly saw a difference in resin production, color, and over all yield. This was a guy who was very reluctant to try AN products again, well recently after seeing Big Mike be cool enough to say USE ROOTS EXCELURATOR!!!! I got to researching and found it odd that House & Garden is never in ANY of the challenges and side by sides I see done in different grow forums. With that and the fact all my favorite online growers using H&G for coco I went with their line cuz Monkey Juice is no more. What’s bothering me about AN right now is that they watered down ALL the products and changed formulas ect. Well now getting to the point of my post here the custom H&G schedule I’m following which has been a proven cannabis feeding program tailored for it by a fellow online grower. Well of course there was a AN product in the line up used by many which was Carbo Load and he also used Botanicare Sweet. I had been interested in the Bud Candy since my buddy was raving about how much better the Mendo Purps he had grown for years was turning out SOOOOO much tastier and covered in trichomes like never before. So I decided to add Bud Candy to the mix and kill 2 birds with one stone ya know? To my surprise when my shop that had just opened a few months ago finally got all the AN stuff in the Bud Candy had changed!!! Instead of showing a NPK rating of 0-0-1 it had NOTHING! Also I noticed it didn’t list the vitamins and amino acids anymore! But the bigger thing I noticed is it’s not derived from Potassium Sulfate like the bottles my buddy had been using which I KNEW FOR FACT WORKED!! The bottle I got with the new lil Coco Coir Safe sticker (which I do really like how they tell you what is safe for coco now) has some fancy lil poem and it’s now derived from Magnesium Sulfate!!! I’m hoping it still works the same though and with that said now that AN had watered down products to half what they were and took the aminos out of Big Bud and brought it down to 0-1-3 and the Hammerhead isn’t PK 9/18 it’s now PK 4/8! So these side by sides need to be REDONE with the new formulas which the base nutes they want you to dump 16ml per gal all the way through! Don’t see my plants fading correctly like that but yea redo the challenge and go up against H&G which people are getting 2.4lbs on a consistant basis…

  17. CJ3 on

    This previous commenter obviously doesn’t know much about growing or nutrients. All you have to do is look at the Advanced line-up and you see they have totally organic base nutrients and supplements, synthorganic, synthetic, and all designed and tested for marijuana to increase taste, aroma, THC percentages, and bud size. Dude, go out and try some Bud Candy along with the entire line-up of bloom products from that company and you will see the difference immediately. Please don’t post comments when you are just slagging without facts. Advanced will give you bigger and more potent buds whether you want to grow all-organic, synth, or mixed.

  18. Anonymous on

    If you just want to produce big buds and dont really care what it taste like the use synthetic chemicals like advanced nutrients and you will produce big buds, learn how to do the same thing naturally and organically and you will produce pretty big buds that taste great grow organic. The best thing to do is just try the different nutrients and figure it out for yourself.

  19. Tyler on

    totally man. when somone answers Big Mike’s Million Dollar challenge, then I’ll take them srsly.

    sure, this is a bit of marketing genius, but it just goes to show what being honest will do for business.

    the buzz is out there – and I’ve seen friggin amazing results with ADvanced Nutrients, even tho i was skeptical too at first.

  20. Anonymous on

    To all the naysayers out there saying this or that brand wasn’t included, or whatever else, try this one on for size:

    Ask whatever company you think is best why they won’t put their reputation on the line and shut Big Mike up by beating him in the Million Dollar Challenge he laid down.

    Eh? What’s that? Yeah… they’re all scared to try.

  21. trevor on

    Sounds a little too good to be true. IMHO. I used to use General Hydroponics and they were cool, but then I heard about AN. Started using them in the summer. So far, so good. just checked out the video with Big Mike and his Nutrient Challenge. I don’t think anyone has the balls to come out of the closet and admit to growing weed. We’ll see. peace.

  22. JL on

    they wrote this 5 years ago, that was when i started using advanced nutrients. i have not been let down. they keep improving too. i used it for outdoor and for indoor. i can tell you that big bud is the right name for it. ifand when another company tells me that their stuff is made for herb, i might try it. but as for now advanced nutrients buds are the size of my wrist and one hit will do you.

  23. Gregg on

    I joined a grower’s club on the Advanced website and I got the video of the challenge where Big Mike says for all the companies to meet him in a grow room and get it setled once and for all which of thenutrients grow the biggest and best. The club also emails you growers tips and stuff like that.I have used GH, Dutch Master, Canna and Earth Juice before. I had ok results, with all nutrients you have to pay attention to what you are doing and you also have to have your grow room set up right and sometimes your genetics is going to hurt you or help you too. When I started using the Advance d program it went beyond the fact that I get a heavier weight of crops and more THC. It is also that they have ways for you to fix problems as well as feed roots to make the roots do more, things you don’t usuallythink of when you are looking at nutrients. As far as I see, Adv is the only guys who openly admit to being for us who grow mj. You look at this article and you see one guy is willing to be honest about growing. The rest of the companies play hide and seek, like they are ashamed of us grwoers. My loyalties are to Adv because of the results and they are honest.

  24. Joe on

    This is certainly an article that serious cannabis growers should read. While I would have liked to have seen more companies involved in the test too, I think there’s certainly enough evidence here to make people rethink Advanced Nutrients. I too use Connoisseur, Big Bud, Bud Candy, Overdrive, and Voodoo Juice – and the results are amazing. I used to use Humboldt products, but they just didn’t seem to give me the yields I wanted. In fact, some times it seemed like the plants were stunted as they grew.

    I have also found that not only are my harvests better with Advanced Nutrients, but the smoke is just a better high. That’s what matters to me, you know?

    Finally, before I get off my soapbox, I have found that Advanced Nutrients products are just easier to use. Once you setup your grow and follow their nutrient calculator, it’s nearly self-sufficient. You barely have to do a thing but wait for the harvest to be spectacular.

    Didn’t know about that Million Dollar Challenge, Harris. I will have to check that out – sounds like Big Mike is pretty confident in his nutes. I know I am.

  25. Harris on

    I have not seen this article before but I am using their Connoisseur, Big Bud, Bud Candy, Overdrive, Voodoo Juice and BFX to grow Haze, Herer, and Black Domina and their fertilizers are delivering me the kindest buds I have ever grown. Also, I am on their email mailing list so I get videos and such from Big Mike the founder. He just issued a $$$Million challenge to all the other fertilizer companies to personally have an official side by side pot growing competition to prove who grows the best herb. So far as I know, nobody has had the guts to take him up on his challenge. I think that pretty much says it all.

  26. Mark on

    Have you heard of Top Secret Nutrients? They are the best of the best.They are the only nutrients that dont need to be flushed.Pharmaceutical grade nutrients no chemical after taste.Plus larger yields from not flushing, I dont think they can ever get beat.

  27. Charles on

    I to also would have loved to see House & Garden and Humboldt Nutrients (Not to be confused with Humboldts Own which is an entirely different company). From what I’ve seen AN, H&G and Humboldt Nutrients are widely regarded as the tippity top of the nutrient lines. One thing I found interesting was the difference between Supernatural Brand and AN. I’ve seen rumors that AN bought Supernatural Brand yet I can’t substantiate the claim… since Super Natural Brand is still available commercially.

  28. Anonymous on

    Notice that the original article is from 2004 and is out of date when compared to today’s nutrients. As stated, House and Garden and Humboldt Nutrients were not included. Also Dutch Master Gold is getting good reviews around the world. Would like to see the experiment redone with more up to date formulas.

  29. Anonymous on

    I’m just wondering why? Advanced did not run House and Garden, or Humboldt Nutrient in their Challenge. Cause I’m looking to upgrade to a high grade nutrient. Can’t decide between the 3 I’ve mentioned in this comment. Any advice u have for me would be helpful.


    Filla Kinex