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Fifteen years ago, buying a bag of weed was like rolling the dice. Sometimes, the product was fire, other times, not so much. But with the help of legalization, cannabis has evolved over the last few decades at an incredible rate. Today, thousands of different strains line dispensary shelves each with their own unique terpene and cannabinoid profiles (and some pretty interesting strain names, too) carefully designed to elicit a variety of outcomes – from energetic to lethargic and everything in between. But where do these strains come from? And are they really as different as they make themselves out to be?
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The answer to the latter question is a simple “yes.” Unless it is an exact genetic copy, every strain – even strains with the same name – will vary to some degree. The answer to the former question regarding the origin of cannabis strains, however, is more complex. If done correctly though, it could be as close as your own back yard or grow room.
Why Cross-Breed Cannabis?
Have you ever wondered why some cannabis strains make you super sleepy while others make you talkative? Why some taste like pine needles and dirt while others taste like soap or grape soda? Or even why the great indica versus sativa debate is important to begin with? Cannabis breeders do.
In fact, these are some of the most common questions on a cannabis strain breeder’s mind, or more specifically, how can they create the perfect strain by combining all the best features from different strains into a whole new one that everyone will love.
Breeders do this by carefully selecting “parent” strains with the most favorable traits, then cross-breeding them until they achieve the perfect blend of both parents minus as many negative qualities as possible. The process can take years and countless generations to perfect but the results are well worth it.
How to Create Customized Strains by Cross-Breeding
Creating unique cannabis strains takes both patience and persistence. The process requires that a male cannabis plant be grown to near maturity so that he will produce pollen. The pollen is then used to encourage the female to produce seeds by sprinkling it directly onto the female plant between the second and fourth week of the flower cycle.
Seeds that are collected from a female plant must then be grown to maturity and carefully selected for their most desirable traits.
These could be traits from either parent or a combination of both and will likely produce varying results until it has been backcrossed to stabilize the strain’s phenotypical genetics. This is done by selecting the strain with the most favorable characteristics then back-crossing it with itself or a parent plant until the resulting phenotype becomes consistent.
Even then, however, the actual phenotype (or the outward characteristics of the plant) may vary slightly between seeds due to many factors like grow conditions, nutrient levels, harvest time, curing method and so on. Perhaps the only way to guarantee stabilized genetics is through the use of cannabis tissue propagation, though widespread use of this practice is still a few years out, at least.
Famous Cannabis Breeders
Breeding the perfect bud takes a lot of practice and some serious know-how to make it happen. Though anyone can research and try their hand at cannabis breeding, some have worked extremely hard to make a name for themselves in the cannabis seed game. Expert breeders are notorious for creating top-of-the-line strains that grow well, produce consistent buds and take home multiple rewards in the process. Here are some of the best cannabis seed breeders to look out for.
TGA Genetics is the collective title of seed breeding power duo, Subcool and MzJill. With popular strains like Agent Orange and Chernobyl saturating the West Coast, TGA Genetics has become a household name in the weed growing scene.
Since the 1970’s, Soma has been perfecting his cannabis genetics through careful research and quite a bit of trial-and-error, creating some of the most potent cannabis on the market today. With a special focus on the terpene content of his plants and the aromatherapy benefits to cannabis, Soma has created an array of award-winning strains like Lavender, NYC Diesel, and Amnesia Haze.
Sensi Seeds is known world-wide for it’s huge contribution to cannabis genetics as we know them today. Having won more awards globally than any other seed bank, its founder, Dronkers, has dedicated his life to improving and preserving the best cannabis genetics on the market. He is responsible for creating popular strains like Jack Herer and Silver Haze, and it is his genetics that other breeders seek when crossbreeding due to the stability of the strains.
The countless cannabis strains lining dispensary shelves did not get there by accident. Years of careful breeding – and a lot of trial-and-error – have afforded us the ability to choose our cannabis based on flavor, appearance, potency, cannabinoid flavor and many more characteristics so that our marijuana experiences can be just as unique as our preferences.
Have you ever tried to cross-breed cannabis? Tell us about your experience.