Saturday January 30, 2021
By Paul Barach
A growing number of states are legalizing cannabis, and a growing number of cannabis consumers are stuck inside their homes, which means that more people are growing their own marijuana plants than ever before. Whether cannabis fans are testing their green thumbs as a hobby, to lower their monthly cannabis budget, or to provide steady access to medical bud, there is a lot to learn for the amateur grower. One important lesson that every amateur grower should know is how to store cannabis pollen.
Reasons to Store Cannabis Pollen
There are plenty of reasons to store cannabis pollen for the long term. Much like storing seeds, it’s a great way to preserve the genetics of a favorite plant for future breeding. It’s also a fantastic way to create new strains.
Storing cannabis pollen on the other hand takes a little more know-how and care as opposed to storing seeds. A seed is basically a hard-sided suitcase for protecting and storing important genetic documents. It’s durable enough to drop to the ground, wait for the right conditions, and begin sprouting.
Cannabis pollen, on the other hand, is meant to float away on the wind or fly away stuck to the limbs of insects. Once that pollen hits its target, the job is done, which means there’s no need for any type of durable outer shell or longevity. The good news is that, while pollen may remain viable for a week or two out in the open, it can last for up to a year when stored correctly.
Pollen Collection Steps
Male cannabis plants start making pollen a couple of weeks into the flowering cycle. This is when the pollen sacs - located where the plant’s branch and stalk meet - split open and begin spreading pollen into the air. If you’re collecting pollen for storage, you want to capture it right as these sacs first crack open. That is when the pollen is most viable.
There are two methods for collecting pollen at this time. Whichever method you chose, it’s incredibly important that you don’t spread the pollen to your female plants, which will cause them to put their energies into producing seeds instead of dank buds.
Wear latex gloves and throw them away the second you’re done using them. Dress in tight clothing that won’t come into contact with the pollen and put your clothes into a garbage bag until they’re in the laundry. Wear a mask and make sure the air in the room is still. Pollen is made for the air and any draft from an open window, AC unit, or fan will carry it far. Finally, keep any tools you use in an airtight case until you wash them.
The first pollen collection method, if you’re confident with a pair of scissors, is to snip off the male flower cluster, including the pollen sacs. Once removed, place the clusters into a sealed storage container or heavy-duty ziplock bag and leave them in a warm, dim, dry place for about a week. A good way to tell when the clusters are dry and ready for pollen collection is to give the container a shake. The pollen should easily spill out from the sacs.
Once the flower clusters have dried, place them over a micron screen with either wax paper or parchment paper underneath, then give it a light shake. The pollen should fall through the screen, separating it from any remaining plant matter. Again, this should be done in a closed room with still air.
If the thought of snipping your plant’s sac gives you pause, the second method is to place that same wax or parchment paper beneath the pollen sacs. Give the branch a little flick or a shake and the pollen will fall down onto the paper. Once you’ve collected enough, pour the pollen through that same micron screen to filter out any plant matter that fell onto your paper. Collect the pollen into one pile on the paper using a clean brush, then spread it out evenly and leave it in a dim, warm, dry place. Any temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees and humidity of 30%-60% is ideal. After 48 hours your pollen should be dry and ready for storage.
Properly Storing Pollen
Pollen and moisture don’t mix. When it comes to marijuana pollen storage, either short or long term, this is your guiding star. With no thick outer shell, pollen decomposes pretty quickly once it gets wet. In order to keep pollen dry for storage, many growers will mix baking flour in with their pollen. When it comes to ratios of flour to pollen, this can range anywhere from 1:1 to 4:1. The flour will absorb any extra moisture like rice from a wet smartphone and will keep pollen viable for a much longer period of time than storing pollen alone. The nice thing about this method is that when it comes to fertilization, the flour won’t affect fertilization. Female cannabis plants know what they want when it comes to pollination, and flour ain’t it.
Whether you go for the flour trick or not, storing cannabis pollen follows the same basic rules of any long-term cannabis product storage: Airtight and out of the light. Much like storing seeds for the long term, whether you’re storing it in the refrigerator or freezer, the important thing is to avoid temperature fluctuations. Raising and lowering the temperature of your pollen repeatedly can damage the delicate cells or introduce moisture through condensation. Keeping your pollen at a steady temperature throughout its storage is key. As with seeds or edibles, opaque, glass jars are superior to plastic freezer bags when it comes to storage.
After storage, your pollen has to come up to room temperature before use. If you’re not using all of your supply at once, it’s best to just remove the amount that you need from the container and leave the rest in storage. Otherwise, the temperature fluctuations may spoil your entire batch. Simply take the amount of pollen that you need, place it in a fresh, clean container, then let it sit out at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. This gives the pollen time to thaw without absorbing too much moisture from the air, which can kill its viability. Once your pollen has come up to room temperature, get a clean brush and start pollinating by brushing it gently onto your female plant’s stamen.
Collecting, storing, and using cannabis pollen takes a steady hand, a clean, calm environment, and a little know-how. However, like all important things, it’s worth taking the time to learn and will pay off in the future.
Have you ever collected/used cannabis pollen? Share your tips, tricks, and experiences in the comments below.