Ever wonder where all of those cannabis strains come from? Cannabis breeding is how new strains are created. Here's how cannabis strains are bred! Breeders focus on plant characteristics when breeding cannabis seeds such as their potency, flavor, yield, smell, resistance to pests, color, growth stature and other characteristics. Use this technique to create your own cannabis strains and breed weed seeds to preserve genetics – or cross-breed some more!
How Cannabis Strains Are Bred
For the average cannabis consumer, keeping track of cannabis strains can be a real headache. It may seem like there are new strains popping up all the time – because there are! But just where are all of these strains coming from?
Why Breed New Cannabis Strains?
Breeding new cannabis strains allows growers to explore new combinations of cannabis genetics. Combining two strains with unique genetics can reveal new flavors and aromas, alter cannabinoid levels, and boost total yields.
Strains have also been crossed with close relatives or other versions of themselves for improved health and fortification. This process can create new varieties of a strain that are nearly identical to the original plant but feature improved resistance to fungus, bugs, and other potential threats.
Each cannabis strain available today is derived from the breeding and crossbreeding of landrace and heirloom strains that once were native to very specific regions of the world such as Africa, The Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Thanks to previous generations of growers that once traveled the world to collect these seeds, we now have a range of cannabis strains that have been crossbred many times over giving them unique flavors and effects.
How Does Cannabis Breeding Work?
Cannabis plants can grow to be either male or female. While only female plants are capable of producing buds, male plants produce pollination sacs that are critical to cannabis breeding.
In order to breed a new strain, you will need to have a male plant of one variety, and a female plant of another. A couple of weeks into their flowering stage, male plants will develop pollen sacs that can be easily identified with the naked eye. When these sacs are matured, they drop onto the ground and release pollen that spreads over the female plants, fertilizing them.
Typically, growers place one male plant in a grow chamber with several females, to ensure multiple plants can grow from one breeding attempt. A single male plant can pollinate tens of females. Growers typically only introduce one healthy male into the cannabis breeding environment in order to guarantee more stable genetics for all of the new seeds.
Once a female plant is pollinated, it does not produce the sticky buds that it would if left to grow on its own. Instead, pollinated female plants produce seeds that are a genetic expression of both their mother plant and their father plant.
Oftentimes, the traits and characteristics of the female plant tend to carry over more dominantly to the new progeny. Nevertheless, the traits of the male plant are still obvious in the genes of the new breed. Each seed carries a unique set of characteristics passed down from its mother and father resulting in many different ‘phenotypes’ of a single strain.
Breeding Strains Forwards And Backwards
The strains you are likely to pick up at your local dispensary are unlikely to have just gone through one single round of breeding. Most of the time, new strains go through several series of breeding in order to develop a consistent phenotype of high quality. Growers then select the best phenotype to carry on the genetic line.
Strains can also be bred backward. Once a grower has settled on a phenotype, they may then backcross that strain by breeding it with one of its original parents or another phenotype in order to strengthen its genetics and obtain more desired characteristics.
Cannabis breeding is often a long and strenuous process, but well worth it. With legalization, new strains and phenotypes are now being bred by both industrial and home growers. Expect to see more unique cannabis strains in the future!
Looking to see what strains are available now? Check out our Seattle dispensary online menu.
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Breeding Cannabis Seeds
Step #1 For Cannabis Seeds
You will want to begin by choosing parents for breeding cannabis seeds. Selecting the female plants for breeding is much easier than selecting male plants.
Breeders focus on plant characteristics such as their potency, flavor, yield, smell, resistance to pests, color, growth stature and other characteristics when choosing a female to breed cannabis seeds.
Choosing male plants is not easy since males don’t reveal their characteristics like females do. Some breeders will rub their fingers on the male plants stem to be able to better smell their resinous odor. The best way to test for male characteristics is by a progeny test where the male pollen is harvested and then placed on certain plants.
These plants will create seeds and the next season those seeds are planted then grow up to show off their characteristics. Once a male plant is selected for breeding the other male plants are then cut down and destroyed.
Step #2 Is Collecting Pollen
You will collect pollen from the male plant that you have chosen and strip away all extra male branches to guard against random pollination then isolate the male as soon as anthers show. Before the anther’s open, you will place a plastic bag over the branch and tie it to prevent it from falling.
You will keep the bag over the branch for several days to collect pollen then carefully remove the branch and bag so pollen does not escape from the bag.
Step #3 Storing Cannabis Seeds’ Pollen
You can now either store the male pollen indoors since pollen in a natural condition in the wild will not last for long. Be sure that the storage container that the pollen is stored at low temperatures and moisture since as high temperatures, as well as humidity, will destroy pollen very quickly.
Pollen that is harvested can be stored for several months when it is stored in a freezer. To store pollen in the freezer you will first need to use a fine screen to filter out the plant leaf matter from the anthers that may have fallen into the bag.
If these are not removed it can contaminate the pollen and cause it to spoil. Before you filter the plant material you will want to lay down some wax paper or place a plate that is clean to capture the falling pollen.
You can then place the pollen in a sterile container, tube or sealed bag to make sure that the pollen for cannabis seeds is clean and sterile. When you are freezing the harvested pollen you will not want to continually freeze and thaw it out since this will diminish the viability of the pollen. Use only what is needed and leave the rest frozen.
Step #4 Using Pollen For Cannabis Seeds
Pollination occurs when male pollen comes into contact with the female pistil. Depending on which plant variety you choose to breed the female flowers will be ready to be pollinated within two (2) to twelve (12) weeks after the flowering cycle has been introduced to the plants.
The more pistils that are visible when pollinating then more cannabis seeds will be created. Female pistils that are turgid and most often white or off-white are the best to be pollinated.
Any pistils that are rust- or brown-color are beyond the point that you can fertilize. To pollinate a female plant, you will first cover the female branch with a pollen-filled bag then briefly shake the bag to make sure the pollen makes contact with the female pistils.
You can leave the bag over the branch for two (2) days to ensure pollination occurs. Many times cannabis breeders will contain the male pollen and pollinated-female plants in a separate room to prevent other cannabis plants from being fertilized.
After a few days in the pollination room, the female plant is sprayed with water to destroy the pollen that remains on the plant before the female plant is moved back into the flowering room. This is to prevent any remaining pollen from fertilizing other plants.
Also be sure to spray any room that you have allowed for pollination to occur. Another way to pollinate a female plant is to use a small paintbrush to ‘paint’ pollen onto the pistils for cannabis seeds. You will simply dip the paintbrush into a container of pollen and gently brush the pollen onto a female plant’s flowers.
Be sure that all fans are off to prevent the pollen from being blown around the room. This method is perfect for growers who want to have cannabis seeds created on only a few branches and leave the rest of the female flowers sinsemilla.
After a plant is fertilized the cannabis seeds will be ripe in about six (6) weeks but could be ready earlier. When seeds are mature they will split the calyxes open and make the cannabis seeds visible.
The seeds that are most ripe are seeds that have a dark brown or grey color and well-mottled (tiger striped) and will set loosely within the calyx. Seeds that are not viable and immature will be green, yellow or white in color as well as will be in sealed calyxes.
If you have seeds that are not mature by the end of the plants life-cycle then you can eat the immature cannabis seeds. Plants that are sativa dominant tend to allow seeds to fall from their small, lightly packed buds and while indica dominant plant seeds tend to stay within the large, densely packed buds.
Seeds are harvested from buds by either manually finger-picking each of the seeds out or by crushing the buds to separate the bud from all seeds. Seeds are often tested for their viability with a simple press between your thumb and index finger to test the seeds firmness.
If the seed splits open with this test it means that the seed is not viable or immature. If the seed is very firm then those cannabis seeds will tend to be viable.
Once seeds have broken the calyx then they are ready to plant immediately, if you choose to do so. Otherwise, the seeds may fall off the plant and germinate below the plant.
These ideas and methods are only a guideline for small-scale cannabis seed production. If you plan on producing massive amounts of seeds you will need to adjust what is done to be effective.
Many breeders will clone a male plant so they have multiple-males within a very large room that are able to pollinate many, many females. It all depends on what you plan on doing.
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How To Easily Breed Seeds And Create New Cannabis Strains
Maybe it’s not every growers ambition to start their own seed company – and nobody’s saying you should. Though it can be pretty cool to create your own cannabis strain. Just imagine you’d be the one creating the next Tangerine G13 or Amnesia Haze – or another legendary, award-winning weed variety.
Imagine you’d be the one creating the next Tangerine G13!
Creating own cannabis varieties is pretty easy too and could potentially be a green goldmine. Even if you don’t create the next Super Silver Haze on your first try, it is still worth trying. Cross-breeding your own weed strains is very educative and results in a huge collection of cannabis genetics. Meaning you might hold seeds to strains that are no longer being produced – to cultivate or cross-breed with.
Crossing Weed Strains
There is one thing you definitely need if you’re planning to breed your own weed strains: male cannabis plants. Unless your plan is to make feminized cannabis seeds, which is a different story we’ll dive into another time. To recognize and distinct male from female (and hermaphrodite) weed plants, have a look here.
Because although you can grow male cannabis plants in the same room as female cannabis plants. It’s important to separate the males before their flowers open, releasing their pollen into the room, to avoid uncontrolled fertilization.
Rest assured, there is no need for a separate grow room for the male plants to develop from there. As a flowering male can be held under a simple lightbulb or simply in the windowsill. Furthermore, you can even cut off a few branches and put them in a vase to collect the pollen a week later. Regular Cannabis seeds create male and/or female plants.
Selecting Parents For Your Strain
The trick to select the perfect male weed plant is to have good and above all trained senses. Because it’s up to you to see which male has the best growth and the most attractive (or present) aroma.
Hollow stems on male cannabis plants may indicate high THC-production in its offspring
Obviously, only select male cannabis plants with a nice structure and a healthy root system. If possible, cut off a few branches in search of hollow stems. As a hollow stem in weed plants is often an indicator for high THC-production in the plants.
Male plants that are quick to flower are often dominant in passing on their genes – so it’s best to leave those be. Late-bloomers however, carry recessive genes.
Crossing your female plant with late-blooming males will therefore retain the desired characteristics from your fem – instead of your cross turning into a copy of your male parent. If you’re serious about selecting the right male, make sure you have a separate room for them. As there you can leave them to flower longer, to discover more about their grow characteristics.
How To Collect Cannabis Pollen
Now you’ve selected the right male, it’s time to collect its pollen. A pretty easy job considering the plant is eager to release its pollen to fertilize female plants. Simply shake a branch with open male flowers above a sheet of (black) paper or a plastic container. And the pollen will fall down from the flower onto the desired surface.
Make sure there are no vents on and windows are closed though. As the male cannabis pollen is designed to travel with wind – and in this case we’re trying to contain it to not fertilize the wrong (or too many) female plants. Also avoid working with your female plants right after this job, as pollen easily sticks to your clothing and hair.
Fertilizing Female Weed Plants
Selecting the ideal female cannabis plant is easier than selecting males. As you can truly judge the fruits before you put in the labor. To guarantee a stable plant, try growing her out of seeds and cultivate it from clone too. Thereafter, you can choose the characteristics you like to see in your own creation(s). Be sure to take aroma, structure, flowering time, esthetics, taste and effect into account – as those are the most important elements to look for in a good cannabis plant. Logically, only select the best of the best females to create your own weed seeds with.
Simply use a paint brush to pollinate your female cannabis plant, with the collected male pollen. [Image: Gracie Malley / Cannabis Now]
Pollinating your female cannabis plants is as easy as collecting male pollen. Preferably wait until the plant(s) you want to fertilize are three to five weeks into their flowering period. Then take the selected female out of the grow room, again, to avoid uncontrolled pollination of the rest of the plants. Label one or more branches to fertilize, to know which plant was crossed with which and when. And use a clean (paint) brush to apply the pollen on one or more branches for seed production – leaving the rest of the flowers to produce seedless weed: sinsemilla.
Deactivating Cannabis Pollen
About three hours after fertilization, it is time to deactivate the leftover pollen on the plant. You can do that by simply spraying your plant with water. Be sure to change your clothes and have a shower after this, before you place the fertilized female back in the room.
After fertilization, you can let your cannabis plants fulfill their flowering period until they are ready to harvest. The seeds are fully grown after two to six weeks, but can stay in the bud and hung to dry after harvest. Your home grown cannabis seeds then require another month before they’re ready to be germinated – preferably with our favorite germination method.
Be sure to keep an eye on them once they start flowering, as you’ve now produced ‘regular cannabis seeds’. This means your plants can turn both male or female when they enter the flowering stage. Providing you with what you need to further stabilize your creation into the perfect weed strain.
What strain would you choose to cross your own variety with?
SEE ALL STRAINS
The germination of cannabis seeds is illegal in most countries. Amsterdam Genetics cannabis seeds are exclusively sold as collectable souvenirs to customers living in countries where the cultivation of cannabis is illegal. All information on this website is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to incentivize people to engage in illegal activities.