How Beneficial Bacteria & Microbe-Rich Soil Create Thriving Cannabis Plants

peter saavedra

Peter Saavedra from Soil Balance Pro educates us on the incredible impact bacteria have on your cannabis plants.

Fun Fact
Did you know that terpenes are created from the feces of bacteria? Learn more in this fascinating episode.

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Key Takeaways:
[1:08] – Peter talks about his businesses
[1:57] – Peter’s background
[2:49] – The underappreciated microorganism
[5:18] – Setting up bacteria processes
[7:34] – Peter talks about Compost T
[10:45] – Peter talks about how bacteria affects terpenes
[17:26] – Getting the right combination of bacteria
[20:53] – How humidity affects different bacteria
[23:16] – What are microbes
[27:12] – Top reasons people use Soil Balance Pro
[30:28] – Peter answers some personal development questions
[33:46] – Contact details for Soil Balance Pro

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Read Full Transcript

In everyday life we often place the most importance on things we can see, feel and touch, but what if one of the most important factors to creating healthy cannabis plants is something we can’t see. That is why I’ve asked Peter Saavedra on the show today to discuss bacteria and microorganisms and how they impact cannabis. Peter, welcome to CannaInsider.

Peter: Matt thank you so much. I’m grateful to be here.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Peter: Today we… our company kind of roots is in Phoenix, Arizona. So we’re in the southwest. We’re not getting hit by the cold too much.

Matthew: Yeah, gosh it’s brutal out there. Tell me more about your business Soil Balance Pro, Kind Roots and whatever else you have going on.

Peter: Well the product itself, Soil Balance, is a wetable powder and it contains over 60 proprietary strains of Rhizobacteria or actinomycetes. So, we’ve collected all these different microorganism strains from around the world. The product also contains strains of commonly found microorganisms like bacillus subtilis, trichoderma and we have 12 species of VAM and ectomycorrhizal symbionts.

Matthew: Wow that’s a lot of science there that you threw out. We’re going to have to unpack that in a second, but tell us a little bit about your background first and what made you start Soil Balance Pro and go down this road of micronutrients?

Peter: Thank you for that questions. I’m a sustainable agriculture consultant. I consider myself a soil specialist. I’ve been studying soil microbiology, soil physics, soil chemistry for the last 20 years with some of the most renowned organic cultivators in the world. I’ve been working for a long time to help make USDA organic what it is today and get that traction and help these guys really be able to cultivate with nature. That’s a little bit about me.

Matthew: Let’s kind of set the stage and frame your knowledge here. What are most cultivators and cannabis enthusiast not fully appreciating about bacteria, microorganisms and how that affects their plants?

Peter: That’s a really good question. To break it down, to actually give people some insight as to microorganisms and what maybe some cannabis cultivators are undervaluing about what these guys can do for their systems is to really look at the microorganisms themselves as givers and takers. So, if we can isolate the microbial world into that fashion it will help us really understand how important these guys are. Let’s take a look at the takers.

People call then pathogens. The takers, what those guys do, is they actually will just take from the plant so that their needs are met, so that they’re fed and they have no repercussions of the health of the plant. They’re just simply this organism that’s there that is constantly trying to feed themselves and their offspring so that they’re sustained and that they’re healthy. They have no repercussions, again, for the total system so the plants begins to die because those organisms are starting to take so much just for themselves so that they’re alive.

The givers, adversely, they understand that their long term survival and that of their species is contingent on what they can give, what they can create for not only themselves but to keep that plant healthy because they understand the longer that plant’s alive, the longer that they’re going to survive. So they understand that the more they give, the more they’re taking care of their future species and those yet to come. I think the biggest thing that cannabis cultivators can decipher in that message is that if we’re able to utilize what’s naturally within us as humans to give to the plant and give them the correct life and give them the correct biology, that’s going to ensure a healthier, a more productive, nutrient dense commodity and medicine that they’re giving to the community.

Matthew: A cultivator they are saying wow this is important. I need bacteria, the right kind of bacteria for my plants, but how do I get it? How do I go about setting a processes to make sure that I’m getting the proper bacteria in the proper amounts in the proper spectrums? How does that occur?

Peter: That’s been the challenge for most cannabis cultivators and just growers period throughout history. The advancement of bioproducts in this industry has been in a holding pattern for so long because of the proven efficacy of their chemical counterparts. We’ve got the advancement of all these MPK and nutrient products and those are great, but to actually quantify the correct strains that are necessary, the correct strains that have co-evolved with this plant in nature to keep that system healthy has not necessarily been quantified as of yet by modern day science.

So, growers are now realizing if I grow organically, I’m going to get a much denser smell because my bacteria is at higher levels. So, that’s kind of what we’ve done with Soil Balance. We’ve tried to take guesswork out of which strains that this particular plant necessitates. Because all plants have co-evolved with microorganisms in their natural habitat. Just like humans have co-evolved with our microorganisms in our digestive system. When we take that plant out of its indigenous soil or its indigenous environment recreating that biology has been a big challenge for cultivators or growers around the world. So, people have tried to do it with Compost T and different microbial inoculants, but again the advancement within the industry has been a little bit behind.

So, what we’ve done is we’ve started to look at microbial combinations. I think that’s where the industry needs to begin, to be honest, is not looking at what a microorganism can do on its own, but what they produce in combination that will make them effective.

Matthew: I’m somewhat familiar with Compost T. That’s where you take different kinds of soil and organic materials, put it in a bucket of water and then add oxygen bubbles to it. Is that correct? Can you describe what the benefits of that is and if you think that’s a good idea.

Peter: There’s pros and cons to that. Obviously I’m a big fan of compost. That’s what I’ve been doing for a lot of years and making a quality humus compost is important, an aerobically produced compost. But as in all natural mediums one of the disadvantages to compost is that… I wouldn’t say it’s a disadvantage but it’s a part of the natural system. You have givers and takers in those mediums. So, sometimes if a compost is not completely decomposed, and I’m a compost master and I can’t get compost to be completely decomposed, so you’re going to have pockets within the soil aggregates of anaerobic or pathogenic organisms.

So, sometimes when you brew that you could be incorporating strains of powdery and downy mildew, bultritus, (8.25 unclear), pithium, all the bad organisms that are in that natural soil system and you could by putting sugars and stuff in it, you could be increasing a cold. So that’s how some people by trying to do the right thing and put good organisms in there could actually be hurting their crop unbeknownst to them. And sometimes not, depending on how that person creates their Compost T which can take a lot of work to do it correctly with the proper aeration, with the proper food sources and most importantly the proper materials. It can be a huge advantage to the crop.

So, you really have to educate yourself on the proper way to inoculate. So, what we’ve kind of done with Soil Balance is take out all those pathogens and just isolate all the beneficial so that that scenario is eliminated from the cultivation practice. And that’s what a lot of these microbial companies have done. They’re just taking the good ones so that way people aren’t unpurposefully infecting their crop.

Matthew: Right, so if done wrong, you could be multiplying the thing you don’t want so you got to make sure you do this in the right way. But you can’t ever entirely eliminate pathogens can you? You can just minimize them to the smallest effect possible. Is that right?

Peter: Yeah that’s exactly right. Scientifically speaking the pathogens are a natural part of nature. There’s just gonna be pathogens in all natural mediums. So, what the idea is is to get those colonies to subclinical levels. So, what that means is getting those pathogens to a point where they can’t really gain traction or they can’t really gain competency. And how you do that is by over populating them with the good guys.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. There’s a lot of talk about terpenes and everybody wants to understand terpenes better and terpene development. First can you remind listeners what terpenes are and then second how bacteria affect terpene development?

Peter: Terpenes are a compound that is found inside to the trichome, which is the frost. For those who don’t know what a trichome is it’s kind of like the white frost that develops on the outside of the flower. The terpenes are actually responsible for the plant smell, the plant’s flavor. In some ways I think that they are… there’s the terpenes. There’s phenyl and flavonoids production that’s in that compound. Terpenes are also what gives the plant its efficacy in helping people as well. They’re a pretty unique compound.

The soil balance probiotics, the organisms that are unique to our product they produce a plethora of metabolites. So these organisms that I’m talking about they produce a bunch of what are called secondary metabolites. I think I should explain that first before I go any deeper. So a secondary metabolite from an microorganism is kind of like an earthwork casting. So a microorganism will eat something and then its waste gets turned into what’s called a humus and it can be all kinds of different things. So different microorganisms can create different types of water secondary metabolites.

Some people call it waste. Some people call it micro pee or poo. It could be thought of it in that way, right. So it’s that little single celled organism’s waste. So what our organisms do, the combination of them, they produce a variation of these metabolites. Not only in the soil but on the root surface or what’s called the rhizosphere. This is how we create terpenes. So, among all the compounds we produce three plant hormones and those are called indoleacetic acid, nafolinic acid and gibberellic acid. So these are hormones, right. And these plant hormones are then taken up by the plant root and transferred throughout the root, the stem, the leaves and the flowers.

The probiotic microbes found in Soil Balance produce compounds that stimulate the natural production of plant protective phytoalexins or terpenes. So, to make that really simple, that was pretty heavy technical stuff. So, what this means for example on cannabis sativa, the probiotic microbes push the plant to produce homes and secondary metabolites that stimulate and increase the THC synthase enzyme and CBD synthase enzyme. These are the natural enzymes found in all cannabis plants that produce the oils and the terpenes. So essentially your CBD and your THC are being produced by the plant and inside that those secondary metabolites, which that plant is producing, is from your terpenes.

To kind of go off on a little bit about what the Soil Balance is doing. In our extensive field data from this 2017 season we unequivocally established that the addition of bacteria or soil balance increased and stimulated all of these biochemical pathways and the hormonal effect grew the Soil Balance plants by 40 percent larger than the non-treated plants. So the flowering heads actually contained more oil bearing trichomes. And so not only will microorganisms increase the plant’s defense mechanism, but the correct biology can do what fertilizer is doing too. It can help the plant grow much larger.

Matthew: That’s fascinating. So, getting these microorganisms and bacteria in the right proportions, the right amount is essentially like giving the proper environment and fuel for the plant to get as full as possible expression.

Peter: Yeah that’s absolutely on point. And with genetic expression, that’s an interesting statement that you made. Because, for instance, a hemp plant. A hemp plant is genetically predisposed to produce low THC and high CBD output, versus a female plant which could be genetically predisposed to produce higher THC than CBD content. So, what microorganisms are proving is that again the one specific to Soil Balance that we’ve isolated, they are reducing THC in hemp plants and increasing CBD oil exponentially by over 40 percent, we’ve found.

Then in the female plants we’re seeing THC levels of 30 percent. Much higher than the average THC level that you’d find in maybe a 20 percent plant. But we’re also seeing a much higher terpene percentage in the female plants than some of the male plants as well. So, it’s just a unique thing that yeah the microorganisms allow that plant to really hit its full genetic potential.

Matthew: So, let’s say I’m a cultivation company, maybe a business owner actually a cultivator or both listening to this. What are the first steps they should take to ensure they get a broad spectrum of bacteria that’s going to help their plants?

Peter: Again, yeah, that’s a good question. I would say bacterial combinations, I don’t want to say that we’re the only company right out right now that’s looking at different microbial combinations, but one of the things that I think is there’s so many different ideas and concepts around how to properly get the correct biology. First off, if you’re growing medium doesn’t have the right strains, adding the right food or molasses or this or that is never going to inoculate or increase strains that were never there in the first place. So, you really have to find products or different microbial inoculants, amendments at have a diversity of different strains.

Again adding in compost, if you’re very careful, can be a good thing. Adding strains from crop residue, which microbial strains that live on the leaves or animal feces, microbial strains that live in an animal’s intestines are not going to be as conducive to your root development as maybe strains that you can get from natural soil. So, I hope that what people begin to do is where we started 20 years ago and start isolating strains of microorganisms that live on the roots of plants. That’s a whole technique in and of itself to be able to take these isolates and them play together nicely and put them into a stable form. That’s what we have done with Soil Balance. There’s a lot of good microbial inoculants out there.

You want find those products that are regenerative on the rhizosphere and that’s been one of the caveats with microbial inoculation to this point and why a lot of growers say that they don’t see any efficacy with these types of products is because a lot of the strains that they’re putting in, like from and animal intestine, are not going to survive in that harsh environment so they need to keep continually reinnoculate. Whereas a Soil Balance product, type of product, you’re going to actually have regenerative microbes that will reproduce on the root because that’s what they were born to do. They live and sustain their community on that rhizosphere.

So for somebody to do it on their own they’re going to have to really set up the right laboratories to isolate these strains or they can get some soil balance. There’s some other really good products out there that are kind of cutting edge. So, I would say combining those and really seeing how that effects your total system is going to be appropriate at this stage to enhance the quality. As we’ve now found quality, smell and whatnot in the cannabis plant is indicative to the diversity of your biology. So, it’s an important part of the system if you want to redefine your industry with quality.

Matthew: What about a grower, let’s say in Washington State, versus a grower in Nevada? One is a very dry climate and one is a very humid climate. Do they have to look at different strains of bacteria to deliver to their plants or is it roughly the same independent of the humidity of the environment.

Peter: That’s a really good question. That will kind of take you into the land race conversation. If you look at native plants in Africa or different areas of the world. The organisms that they have naturally co-evolved with proliferate and regenerate at certain timeframes. So, let’s say if you take that same strain and you plant it in… you take it from Africa and you plant it in Washington, the strains in that particular soil are going to be different than it’s naturally used to to produce the same type of terpenes that it needs.

So, to quantify that at this time with the advancement of our capabilities and technologies right now, there’s a lot of people out there that are kind of diving into this, but it’s still so underdeveloped to be able to again quantify the actual strains necessary for that particular plant strain in that agro ecosystem. Because some of the strains that it necessitates to produce limiting a certain terpene that that strain needs might not be there in the soil and that’s really how it’s going to produce a high amount of lemmining. Now the seed itself will contain a lot of the biology that particular plant needs in it as it grows, which is how those terpenes are created in the first place, but again having the correct strains in the soil to kind of signal that plant hormonally to create the correct terpenes is something that we’ve had a breakthrough on and we hope that others will follow that suit and really try and find the correct microbial combinations to get the best cannabis plants for our patients.

Matthew: Now we’ve discussed bacteria in depth here and I feel like we probably want to just take a step back and just discuss what microbes are exactly, because most people listen, like myself I feel like I’ve memorized this term in high school chemistry or biology, but I just don’t exactly remember exactly what microbes mean and why they’re important. Can you rewind there and tell us what microbes are?

Peter: Yeah, and it’s funny that you say that. The connotation that most people get when they hear about biology or microbiology they’re like, oh man I got a C in that in high school and it sucked and I don’t want to go back to it. I don’t even want to know about that stuff. So, it has this real bad connotation to it from our youth being forced to sit at a desk and learn biology that we had no idea what the hell they were talking about with all these different terminologies and stuff, but to kind of take you on a journey with that microorganisms are just this whole unseen world that encumber almost everything that we touch that we are.

If you think about life force, the vital life force that has created us and created so much of our world on this planet that we’re on, a lot of it is due to microorganisms which are a single celled living organism with a consciousness and the ability to do things on their own. Just like we have the ability as humans to tune into the energies of this world and all the different frequencies that come through us, so too do these living organisms that we can’t see. And because we can’t see them, we think that they’re not there. It’s interesting, even 100 years ago doctors didn’t believe that bacteria could transfer from one human to another. I mean, that’s how recent this whole idea of biology is to our world, but microorganism live on our skin. They live in our mouth. They live on us. We are filled with, I think, seven pounds of bacteria.

A lot of our bacteria is very similar, believe it or not, to the soil. So the soil has so many different types of strains and that’s where we found all of our strains is from naturally occurring soils in different parts of the world. So if you think about it, human beings and soil have very very similar bacterias. So, if we continually decide to kill that bacteria within ourselves, within our soil, that these microorganisms that are so important that are creating all these, what I talked about earlier, the secondary metabolites, which is what a microorganism does. That’s why they’re there. They’re there to take care of us. They’re there for our immunity. They’re there to give us a lot of our brain function, our enzymes, all these things that make us us. When we think about boring biology think about that trip.

How important a microorganism is as this tiny little creature that we can’t see that has this intelligence to do all these beautiful things for our plants, for us. I mean the microorganisms create terpenes. Think about that gift that these guys are giving us. If you want to know what a microbe is, a microbe is creating a terpene. A microbe is actually eating something and its waste becomes a terpene and that terpene goes to children with seizures. So, that’s what a microbe is. That’s what a microorganism is, to get down to it.

Matthew: That is really interesting. I never would have thought about that. Microorganisms poo and then creating the terpenes that stop seizures. That’s a great connection. If you had to boil down the top one or two reasons that cultivators are coming to you and looking at Soil Balance Pro, what would you say the top one or two reasons or they’re situations they’re trying to fix or make better?

Peter: What we’re doing with Soil Balance is we’re giving top growers an edge on their quality. So, one of our growers Poo-e-labs, they just won the 2017 Emerald Cup for highest terpene concentrate in a vape pen. That was a big deal for us because we definitively proved that bacteria does enhance the amounts and the profile of terpenes. So, what Jeff over at Poo-e-labs said, he said, listen your product, the bacteria, that’s why we won the Emerald Cup, period, hands down. We could not have won it without you guys and we’re so grateful and we want to shout it from the rooftops that your product did this for us because we would have never had this type of quality.

So, again, once people start to realize that bacteria creates smell, that’s just what they do. When we as humans, when we work out and we sweat we create a smell. And so too is the case for plants. So, I guess growers are now coming to us because they’re seeing more frost. That’s the basic thing. They’re like, wow we’ve never seen our plants look like they just got snowed on like that, and we’ve been growing this strain for 30 years. So, what we’re doing is we’re taking the best growers and we’re giving them that extra edge to take it to the next level.

We had guys that were at 20 percent THC. Now they’re at 28, 26 percent THC and they’re like, it’s because of the addition of the bacteria. So, organic cultivators have known this for a long time that bacteria is conducive to a high quality, stinky, beautiful, nutrient dense bud. You get that biology you get a lot of health in there. So, people are coming to Soil Balance and buying our product now because they want to redefine their own… the market is becoming so saturated with commodity and all these different products and so many people getting in. So those in the know understand that microbiology is such an important aspect to cultivating a very very high quality, potent strain. That’s where Soil Balance is giving them that edge.

Matthew: Gosh, this industry is evolving so fast. It’s amazing. I was so grateful for the ditch weed I got in high school and now it’s like this is some really next level Elon Musk cultivation topics we’re talking about here.

Peter: Yeah, well it’s the future. It really is. I mean, the future of this industry is actually working with nature. We’re cultivating a natural plant. Yeah this is pretty heavy stuff. I like the conversation.

Matthew: Peter, I want to pivot to some personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. With that, is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you’d like to share?

Peter: Yeah so, when I was younger I would just tear through books, as a lot of people in their 20s do, but probably the biggest book that I could say shaped me in a lot of ways that helped me remain humble and try to help me be a better person was The Book of Dal. I don’t know if I would consider myself a Dalist, but it’s a philosophy and it’s basically centered around balance and having compassion towards a beautiful and perfect system. In place of taking from that system, really understanding the balance of it, being a part of it and giving what we can with all the gifts that we have as human beings to have this consciousness, to have this ability to love, to be loved, to have our intelligence and utilize that to improve. Not improve a sacred system but be a part and give in a balanced way to a sacred system.

Matthew: That’s interesting. I had an audio book, a Wayne Dyer reading the Dal to Chang. He did a different reading every day for a year. I thought that was such a fascinating concept and way of looking at the world, particularly the passages about water and water is this humble force that always seeks the lowest level, yet it’s so powerful in its humility. It was just the continuing references to trees and water and stuff. I thought that’s pretty interesting stuff.

Peter: Yeah.

Matthew: Is there a tool, web-based or otherwise, that you consider important to your productivity?

Peter: Well I mean the greatest tool, honestly, the greatest tool that I think we as humans can learn from and understand and utilize, the most advanced technology on this earth I believe is nature. I truly and firmly believe that. If we can actually get to a point of consciousness within ourselves to understand that nature is Earth’s most advanced technology, I think we’ll all be in a much better place.

Matthew: Yeah, good points. I was listening to a gentle speak and he was talking about why we should get rid of the idea of sustainable and move to regenerative because sustainable just keeps you where you’re at and regenerative is to get us back to where we were in more of a natural system. I thought that was an interesting concept. Like sustainable is not an option.

Peter: Sustainability is a beautiful mindset and it is a mindset. It’s not really a product or a way. It’s a mindset, sustainability. And regenerative is working with nature and giving to it.

Matthew: Peter, this has been really educational. Before we close, can you let listeners know how to find you, find Soil Balance Pro and connect with you were you are?

Peter: Sure. Our website is You can purchase our product there. If you use a code COMPASSION right now we’re really trying to have people get the feeling that it’s time for balance. It’s time for balance in our environment. It’s time for us to become much more interconnected. That’s one thing I’m loving about the cannabis industry is that the cultivators that I’m meeting they’re so tuned into their plants, they’re so tuned into the energy and the frequencies and the vital life force that their plant gives out. So, they’re a beautiful example that our company wants to support and just be of service to. Because these guys are tuning into the right things. So, yeah, you can kind of get a feel for that and what we’re doing with these microorganisms, these givers at

Matthew: Thanks for coming on. I’m definitely going to be thinking about bacteria for the rest of the day and their impact on the world around me that I see. So, thanks for educating us and I encourage listeners to reach out to Peter if they’re interested in this topic and to learn more. So, thanks again Peter and have a great 2018.

Peter: Thank you Matt