Front Plant Sci. 2021 Jul 15;12:657323. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.657323. eCollection 2021.
Environmental conditions, including the availability of mineral nutrients, affect secondary metabolism in plants. Therefore, growing conditions have significant pharmaceutical and economic importance for Cannabis sativa. Phosphorous is an essential macronutrient that affects central biosynthesis pathways. In this study, we evaluated the hypothesis that P uptake, distribution and availability in the plant affect the biosynthesis of cannabinoids. Two genotypes of medical « drug-type » cannabis plants were grown under five P concentrations of 5, 15, 30, 60, and 90 mg L-1 (ppm) in controlled environmental conditions. The results reveal several dose-dependent effects of P nutrition on the cannabinoid profile of both genotypes, as well as on the ionome and plant functional physiology, thus supporting the hypothesis: (i) P concentrations ≤15 mg L-1 were insufficient to support optimal plant function and reduced photosynthesis, transpiration, stomatal conductance and growth; (ii) 30-90 mg L-1 P was within the optimal range for plant development and function, and 30 mg L-1 P was sufficient for producing 80% of the maximum yield; (iii) Ionome: about 80% of the plant P accumulated in the unfertilized inflorescences; (iv) Cannabinoids: P supply higher than 5 mg L-1 reduced Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) concentrations in the inflorescences by up to 25%. Cannabinoid concentrations decreased linearly with increasing yield, consistent with a yield dilution effect, but the total cannabinoid content per plant increased with increasing P supply. These results reveal contrasting trends for effects of P supply on cannabinoid concentrations that were highest under <30 mg L-1 P, vs. inflorescence biomass that was highest under 30-90 mg L-1 P. Thus, the P regime should be adjusted to reflect production goals. The results demonstrate the potential of mineral nutrition to regulate cannabinoid metabolism and optimize pharmacological quality.