As cannabis is legalized across the country, more and more people have an interest in breeding new strains. Usually, breeding fortifies and purifies a cannabis strain or combines the traits of two strains. It can also intensify specific traits such as aroma, high yields, potency, and much more.
Cannabis breeding can be quite simple for a beginner, or very complex on an industrial scale.
Cannabis Breeding Begins with Seeds
When breeding cannabis, it’s important to know the genetics of your seeds. If you don’t have a detailed history of seed genetics, you won’t know exactly what your cannabis crop will produce.
Therefore, if you have an interest in breeding your own unique strains, only purchase seeds that have a detailed and documented genetic history.
The Basics of Cannabis Breeding
Cannabis plants are sexually dimorphic; that means an individual plant can be either male or female. Only the female plants produce the buds that cannabis consumers crave. However, male plants are also important for breeding, since they are necessary for pollination.
For example, the strain Super Lemon Haze is a cross between Lemon Skunk and Super Silver Haze. These are the two parent strains. A breeder decided to combine the attributes of the two parent strains, in order to create a new strain with the best qualities of both.
Once the female plant is pollinated, it will produce seeds that genetically express the attributes of both parent plants. The seeds can be harvested and then grown separately as a new hybrid strain.
Usually, with cannabis plants, the attributes of the female plant are more prominent in the offspring than the attributes of the male. However, the unique qualities of the male plant will definitely complement the qualities of the female plant. Therefore, careful consideration in choosing the parent plants must be taken.
Breeding Cannabis Plants
After the two-parent cannabis strains are selected, a male plant and several female plants are placed in an enclosed breeding chamber. This will contain the pollen. Large scale producers often use specially designed sterile chambers. However, the breeding chamber can simply be a growing environment enclosed with plastic sheets.
Breeders typically only use one male cannabis plant, to pollinate up to twenty female plants. This will help to ensure genetic purity. Within the breeding chamber, you can grow the plants for three to sixteen weeks, through the vegetative stage. Place the plants on a flowering light cycle. That’s 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.
The male plant will produce pollen sacs in the first few weeks of the flowering phase. Pollen will be released, floating through the air within the enclosed chamber, settling on the female plants. This is pollination. The enclosed breeding chamber will contain the desired pollen while preventing undesired pollen from getting in.
You can also hand pollinate the female plants by shaking the pollen from the male plant onto the female plants. You can also collect the pollen from the male and apply it directly to the female plants. The female plants will grow, flower, bud and produce seeds that express the genetics of both parent plants.
After the seeds are matured, they are dried. The seeds are now a hybrid of the two different parent cannabis strains. The new plants grown from these seeds will express the unique qualities of both the parent plants. These qualities could be potency, plant height, crop yields or aroma.
To help your marijuana knowledge continue to expand, check out the article about the difference between edibles and smoking marijuana.