Demystifying Cannabis Genetics

Sourcing high quality cannabis genetics was once a dangerous and difficult proposition, but times have changed. Today, an unprecedented variety of cannabis genetics from across the globe are available to home growers.  Regular seeds, feminized seeds, and auto-flowering seeds adorned with endlessly creative and unique names are sold by entities reputable and otherwise, both domestically and abroad.  All were created by selectively breeding the three cannabis species: Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. What follows is a description of their respective qualities to help the home grower choose what is most appropriate for their needs.

Unmodified (traditional) cannabis seeds are produced by pollinating a female flower (bud) with the pollen from a male plant, and typically have a 50/50 chance of becoming female or male. Some cultivators claim that when germinated under preferable conditions, a greater ratio of females to males can be achieved.  Most specimens are easy to keep as mother plants, and don’t often suffer hermaphroditic tendencies under normal stress loads.

Feminized cannabis seeds are produced by pollinating a female flower with the pollen of a hermaphrodite. A hermaphrodite has male flowers originating from a female flower, created by stressing a female plant during bloom. This is usually achieved by over-ripening, or by interrupting the plants dark cycle with a light leak.  Feminized seeds eliminate the need to identify and remove male plants from your garden to prevent seed formation in your flowers. It should be noted that it is quite common for hermaphroditism to become a genetic trait, with the offspring producing both flower sexes without the application of stress.

Auto-flowering seeds are hybrids between the sativas, indicas and hybrids known to North America, and ruderalis, a variety originating from Russia and Siberia. In this region, the growing season is very short and the day period during this time is 24 hours/day for about four months.  This means ruderalis must bloom when the day length is well over 12 hours/day, and must do so quickly.  When these traits are bred into sativas/indicas and their hybrids, a plant is created that many find more practical to grow since they finish fast and short, without requiring a timer for lighting.  It should be noted that due to a lack of selective breeding and the difficulty in separating desirable traits, ruderalis varieties are typically of a lower cannabinoid concentration.  To complicate this further, the addition of a third species of cannabis produces wildly unpredictable results regarding flowering times.  Some may have a vegetative stage of varying length, and others will immediately bloom with lower ending yields.  Compounding all these problems are breeders that create auto-flowering seeds that are also feminized.  With this additional genetic caveat, plants become completely unpredictable.  If such a specimen happens to be truly breathtaking, clones cannot be kept as mother plants to reproduce the same results. This forces the grower to either breed their own seeds, or continually purchase them.

Incredible cannabis genetics can come from any of the aforementioned origins, but it is important to choose what is practical for your growing environment and skill level.  Keeping mother plants or breeding for seed production isn’t practical for most, and the type of seeds you purchase will determine what can you can do with them. Endless hours can and should be spent researching online forums and gaining insights through trial and error. However, In the end, it may be best to purchase proven genetics in the form of clones from your local medical dispensary professionals.

PRO TIP: Be certain there are no hitchhiking pests, molds, or viruses on genetics that you acquire by keeping a small quarantine area under observation for a week or so before introducing to your permanent garden. Thank me later.

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