Everyone has at least one strain that is near and dear to their hearts. And, it is likely that cannabis breeding has produced the specific effects and characteristics that make them like it. Even the old classics, such as OG Kush, Blue Dream, are still bred to increase potency, flavor and aroma, growing characteristics, appearance, and more.
Understanding cannabis breeding is imperative for growers and consumers alike, so let’s dive in.
What is cannabis breeding?
Cannabis breeding is the act of taking two different plants, and combining their genetics to create a unique offspring. Growers are able to create new strains by pollinating a female plant of one strain with a male plant of another strain. For example, OG Kush and Durban poison are bred to produce Girl Scout Cookies – a very popular modern day strain.
Growers also often breed specific phenotypes of a strain to try and create an even better version. This can be done to increase potency, achieve denser buds, or any other characteristic the grower finds desirable.
How has cannabis breeding changed the plant as we know it?
If you are old enough, think back to the best strains in the 80’s. They were low THC, had minimal fragrance, and left much to be desired visually. Plants grew tall and spindly, with lower yields.
Over the past 30+ years of breeding different cannabis strains, the plant has changed entirely. Now, buds are incredibly potent, flavorful, and have a serious nose. Plants yield far higher now, produce a way wider range of effects due to the exponential increase in different strains. Growers have worked hard to improve on their buds, and weed out plants that were producing less than ideal results. Cannabis breeding has led to better marijuana than ever before.
How to breed cannabis
Cannabis breeding may sound complex, but it is actually easier than you think. It doesn’t necessarily require any extensive lab equipment or hard work. We will walk you through the basic steps you will need to take to breed cannabis.
Step 1: Select a male and female plant to breed
Obviously, you will first need to decide on your genetics. Are you going to breed two different strains? Or are you going to try and create a stronger version of a strain you already love? Regardless of your method, one thing is for sure: you will need a male and female plant. You should select strong plants for breeding that show no signs of disease, wilt, or other undesirable characteristics. To be proactive about this, only source the highest quality seeds available. If you don’t know exactly what your plants’ genetics are, how can you predict what you will end up with? Remember that any strains you try and produce will contain the genetic makeup of your mother and father plant!
Step 3: Place your male and female plants in a breeding chamber
While it sounds complex and professional, a breeding chamber can be anything you want it to be. All that matters is the two plants are in a sealed environment, isolated from any other plants. The role of the breeding chamber is to prevent unwanted pollen from getting in, while ensuring the female plant receives all the male’s pollen. Make sure the growing environment is suitable for plant growth. Cannabis plants need a specific range of temperature, humidity, and air flow to grow to their potential.
Step 4: Veg the plants for a few weeks to let them grow
You don’t necessarily need to spend 2-3 months in veg growing huge plants with robust foliage, but definitely give them some time to grow and strengthen before you begin the exciting part of breeding. They should be given 18 hours of light followed by 6 hours of darkness to continue vegetative growth. This will help them get accustomed to their new environment, and prepare plenty of nodes for budding.
Step 5: Flip the breeding chamber to flower
After a week or two, switch the lighting schedule in your breeding chamber to 12 hours on, 12 hours off. This will signal the plants to begin flowering, simulating outdoor conditions where seasons change. The male will start to show his pollen sacks a few weeks into the breeding process, before the female begins to blossom flowers.
Step 6: Agitate pollen from the male onto the female
Eventually, the male plant’s pollen sacks will begin to burst. The pollination process will happen naturally, but to increase your success rate and speed up the breeding process, you can agitate pollen from the male plant directly onto the female plant.
As time goes on, the female will continue to flower, but will start sprouting seeds simultaneously. The female plant will then be what is called a “hermaphrodite”, displaying both male and female features. If you are trying to flower a female plant this is a bad thing, but in the case of breeding, it means we are on track for success. These seeds will contain a combination of the two plants genetic DNA, with unique phenotypes across the seeds.
Step 7: Harvest, dry, and germinate your seeds
Harvest the seeds from the female plant, and dry them. Once they are dry, you can germinate them, and start growing the plant you just bred! Germinate as many seeds as possible, to give yourself a wide variety of phenotypes to select from.
Improving your cannabis breeding process with backcrossing
After you sprout these initial seeds, you will be presented with any number of phenotypes. To ensure consistency and hardiness of your new strain, select the plant you like best. You will then need to refine your strain through backcrossing.
Backcrossing is the process of taking one of your offspring plants, and breeding it with one of your parent plants. This will strengthen that strains genetics, and ensure homozygous results from each future seed. You could also try inbreeding your
Remain patient while you practice cannabis breeding, as there will be a learning curve. Refine your process to breed the best cannabis strains possible, and remember that this is supposed to be fun!
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