Firefly research aims to help cannabis growers understand trichomes

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Cannabis producers looking to enhance trichome production on their plants might be getting an assist from a summertime icon: lightning bugs.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut are enlisting the bugs to study the development of trichomes, the hairlike growths on cannabis plants that can give marijuana and hemp flower an appearance of being dusted in sugar and are thought to be linked to cannabinoid biosynthesis.

A study being funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have researchers making copies of the gene that enables fireflies to light up, known as firefly luciferase, UConn Today reported.

Those copies will be fused onto cannabis plants to make them generate light to signal to researchers when the plants are increasing trichome development.

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The university said in a research announcement that the work could lead to “novel genetic tools and strategies to improve the cannabinoid profile.”

The research will focus on low-THC hemp plants, though all cannabis producers could be impacted by the technology for which the university has applied for a provisional patent.