Genetics 101: What You Need to Know about Breeding Cannabis
As Wavy Flower Company continues to dive further into gettitng new genetics out to the world, we are starting to learn that most people do not know how the genetics are created in the first place. We are here to spread the knowledge and information that we have learned along the way. The Cannabis Industry is full of differing information, but here it is, according to breeders doing it currently!
Let’s say you want to create a new, superior cultivar. We are going to walk you through the steps to making your own, and what it takes, along with the time tables. There is a false notion that genetics are created fairly quickly, when it can take up to a year to find something worth breeding. We have heard of some people spending years on their genetics to make sure that structure, yield, and genetics are stable.
In order to make a simple cross, you need a female of one cultivar, and a male of another cultivar. From seed, it can take 30–45 days to learn the sex of the plant, as long as it is not topped. In order to tell if the plant is female, you need to look for white pistils protruding from a bract (calyx called by some). The bract will be pointy. To see if it is a male, it will have a growth protruding off of the bract, similar to a mini stem. The bract will be round, and will start to show multiple clusters.
After you find both a male and female, make sure to put them together in a very secluded area. We are currently pollinating in a tent, in a separate room from our veg room, which is sealed off. We still need to be careful of cross-contamination at all times. Male cannabis plants are known to pollinate as far as a mile when put outside, so if you have any other plants inside, they can be goners. The plants are put together for 3–4 weeks, where you can make sure the female gets pollinated. You can tell the female is pollinated because the pistils will shrink, shrivel and crinkle, instead of being spread out and straight. You can also visibly see the pollen, which looks like a yellowish-tinted powder.
After the plant is pollinated, you remove the male, and let the female do their work on producing seeds. You will start to see them pretty quickly, and may even see the seeds forming during the pollination period. The seeds will be growing inside of the bract, which most breeders will call a “seed pod”. It takes approximately 6–7 weeks for seeds to mature. The seeds will be popping out of the top of the buds, with plenty of seeds throughout the buds as well. In order to know if the seeds are mature, the seeds will be striped and dark brown. The pistils growing out of the seeds will be red and shriveled.
This is how you produce regular seeds! But this is definitely not the end of the breeding/genetics journey. Now you need to grow seeds to see the results. This leads to phenotypes. So, what is a phenotype?
A phenotype is unique characteristics that come from each seed you grow. That means, no two plants will ever be the same. There will be ones that are similar, but each seed will produce different scents, colors, THC content, sativa/indica traits (in hybrids), and overall expectations. This is why it is so important to get breeder cuts from well-respected people in the industry. They grow seed after seed to find the best producing plant, with the most exotic characteristics. This is why it sometimes takes someone years to work on a cultivar. Phenotypes can differ so much, that you can even think that the cultivars could be completely different. Let me give an example:
Our winning cultivar is Oregon Wine. She is a 50/50 hybrid, green pheno with red throughout the buds. She has an herbal tea scent, with a sweet/sour taste. A phenotype we found during our hunt is our newest cultivar, Swampfoot. She is a green-iridescent, with a cheesy, gym sock aroma and taste. She also hits harder, and although not tested, definitely carries either a higher THC or differentiating terpenes that make the effects completely different. It is also a sativa-dominant hybrid that grows much larger, with an even higher yield.
When you get a 10-pack of seeds from a breeder, you are potentially getting 10 different winning phenotypes. Or, you are potentially getting 10 males. You never know what will happen with regular seeds.
After you find a great phenotype, you can then produce female seeds. This will insure that you will get female plants, but recognize the work that first goes into finding you the best plant possible.
In order to make feminized seeds, you start with a strong-hunted and tested phenotype, and take a clone. The clone will need to be rooted, transplanted, then vegged to go into flower. 5 days prior to putting your clone into flower, you start to spray the clone with STS spray. Using a 50 ppm+ STS spray will give you the quickest effects for reversing it. After the initial 5 days, you put the clone in flower, and continue to spray it with STS spray every 3–5 days until you see male parts form. Even though they form, they might not open up for pollination. You may also have to pick them off, chop them up, and dry them out to use on the original plant. This process can take up to 5–6 weeks. This is where it gets tricky because the original plant needs to be about 2 weeks into flower to pollinate it correctly. Timing needs to be put in place to get the best results. If you cannot put the reversed plant with the original plant within two weeks, it is your best bet to collect the pollen for later use. After the original plant is pollinated, you then follow the steps of making regular seeds, waiting approximately 6–7 weeks for seeds to mature. We normally let the plant completely finish before harvesting and drying the seeds so they are as mature as possible.
We will not touch on autos, as the instability of the genetics makes us not want to approach this type of breeding at this time. We are unable to offer information on the steps to breeding autoflowers, but there is some great infroamtion out there about them! Here is a website that I like to refer to that explains the information very well:
Hopefully this information can provide some insight to the secretive world of breeding, genetics, and the misguided opinions that are floating around about genetics. As we meet with more growers and processors in the industry, we have come to realize that people do not understand the hard work that goes into breeding superior genetics, which is much different than open-pollination, then selling untested seeds.
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