If you are new to the world of growing cannabis then you have probably heard growers, people in the industry and cannabis seed collectors use the term “cannabis seed genetics”. Now you are wondering what they are talking about with these cannabis genetics, what they are and how they are important in the field of cannabis cultivation.
What are Cannabis Genetics?
Cannabis is a diecious plant. What this means is that each cannabis plant has their own sex, both male and female. The male cannabis plant will have sacs that will grow when flowering and these male pollen sacs will produce pollen for the female cannabis plants.
The female plant on the other hand will grow a staminte that will catch the pollen through the wind. Once the female plant has come in contact with male cannabis pollen the female plant will then start to develop seed pods. The seeds will grow and drop to the ground once again starting the cycle the next spring with the ground and air warm enough to start growing.
Both cannabis plants will contribute the genetics that will be defined in the next generation of plants. So if the plant is tall and low THC or CBD content then the traits (or “Genetics”) could be present in the next generation of cannabis plants and will come from the seeds.
The plant traits, look, taste, smell, potency, disease resistance are what cannabis growers like to refer to as plant genetics.
Why are Cannabis Seed Genetics Important?
The genetics of the plant are very important when selecting plants for seed stock. Growers choose the best genetics they can to pass on to the next generation of cannabis. If a grower grows a plant and it has an amazing smell and potency they can easily pass these traits along as clones. However in simple terms just because the plant has a great smell and potency, this doesn’t guarantee that these traits will be passed on to the next cannabis seed generation.
How do these Seed Genetics Get Passed on?
First we will discuss a plant’s “genotype” . This is what genetics that the plant will inherit from its parents, the male and female cannabis plant that produced the seed. This new plant can carry different alleles, some will be dominant meaning they will show up in every plant seed offspring while others are recessive once again meaning that they may or may not show up in the cannabis plant, depending on if there is a dominant allele present to override the recessive allele.
What does all this Mean?
Well it means that, just because the amazing smell allele is present in the cannabis plants offspring, there could be a dominant allele that is low smell overriding the amazing smell allele in the seeds offspring. This will be true for all the plant seeds from the male and female cannabis plant that created them. So instead of cannabis seeds that will grow into plants with an amazing smell they will grow to plants that have low smell.
At an even lower level it is the plant’s Chromosomes that will give rise to different plant genotypes.
What are Genetically Stable Cannabis Plants?
These are types of cannabis strains that will breed true for all the genotypes that are advertised for your cannabis seeds. It also means that the seeds will be almost if not exactly the same in all aspects of growing them. So if you have a plant that is the same height, all the plants grown from the same parents will also be the same height. When cannabis breeders work to create new seedlings, or otherwise new cannabis strains this is very important to good cannabis breeders.
All cannabis good breeders would like to create products that are completely uniform. If a customer is purchasing seeds from a breeder they most likely are only getting a few seeds. If they are buying their seeds to grow orange smell cannabis terpenes then they would like at least all if not most of them to have this citrus orange smell in their plant. The same would go for any other genetics the customer is buying like, flowering times, harvest cycles, height, harvest, and most importantly potency.
What are Phenotypes and How are they Different from Genotypes?
A phenotype is different from a genotype in that a genotype is the genetic makeup of the plant that can not be changed. A cannabis plant phenotype is also what the plant will look, taste and smell like; however these phenotypes can be changed by the plant environment. So if you have two cannabis plants that are identical like a clone, the phenotype can be changed by environmental factors like if the plant is closer to the light then the clone next to it and will grow tall with the light that is farther away from the clone.
Cannabis genetics don’t have to be solely based on genotypes, the same genotypes in plants can be changed by phenotypes.
How Do Breeders Create Stable Cannabis Seeds Genetics?
There are a few different ways that a cannabis seed breeder can create a stable strain/cultivar of cannabis. When a breeder would like to create a new strain they are looking to remove variables in the strain and create predictability for their strain.
Normally breeders will create a stable strain over inbreeding over many generations. In nature this happens when weaker, and less healthy plants die off and are unable to produce offspring. This is referred to as “natural selection” and helps the plant carry on the strongest trait for the next generation of cannabis plants.
In a controlled environment breeders are looking for different traits in their plant offspring. So they will pick these traits generation after generation slowly weeding out unfavorable traits in the plants while selecting favorable traits in the plants.
In each generation the plants will start to show the favorable selected traits more frequently in each subsequent generation of offspring.
Hybrid Cannabis (F1 Generation)
Hybrid generation of cannabis seeds are one way that cannabis breeders create stable cannabis genetics. This is when the breeder takes to dominant parent plants, male and female can use the pollen from one to pollinate the female plant. To do this the parents must be unrelated to each other and never been crossed before to create a generation of cannabis plants. When this happens the resulting cannabis seeds will express the dominant trait of the parent plants in the seed offspring in the majority of the seed stock.
Hybrid Cannabis (F2 Generation)
This F2 generation of cannabis seed genetics is the result of crossing the F1 cannabis seed stock together to make another generation of cannabis seeds. When the F1 generation is once again used as parent plants the results will be much more unstable in the F2 generation. This is because the plants can express a much wider variable of phenotypes in this generation of seeds.
Breeders will often use this generation to find plants expressing recessive traits from the plant phenotypes. This generation of seeds is very undesirable to a seed customer as they will not be able to manage the many traits the plant may show here, as there will be many recessive traits that did not show themselves in the F1 generation of plants.
Hybrid Cannabis (S1 Generation and What it Means)
The S1 is much like the F1 generation of cannabis however there is one subtle difference in S1 cannabis seeds. Instead of using one male and one female cannabis plant to create a new generation of hybrid cannabis seeds, the breeder will reverse a female cannabis plant. Reversing a female cannabis plant, involves using methods to create male pollen sacs to grow on female cannabis plants.
These male pollen sacs on the female plant will have no male chromosomes and thus create all female cannabis seeds. The pollen from the sacs will pollen the rest of the female cannabis plant and is referred to as “selfing” or “selfed” when this happens the resulting generation is called an S1 generation of cannabis. The same will go if the S1 generation is once again selfed to create an S2 generation of cannabis.
Selecting Desirable Traits Generation to Generation
Another way breeders can create stable strains is to use selection from generation to generation. They do this for each generation of cannabis, selecting traits that they would like to pass to the next generation of cannabis plants. As they do this, the plant becomes more and more stable for the selected traits. Over each generation F3, F4, F5 etc. the plant will start to breed true for the traits.
What are Landrace Cannabis Genetics?
Landrace cannabis Genetics (or strains) are strains that native to certain areas of the planet. They developed naturally for thousands of years through natural selection. These strains were used to create the hybrid strains that we see in the cannabis seed market today. They were crossed together to create H1 hybrid strains that we discussed above.
Where will cannabis seed Genetics Go From Here?
It will be hard to say, but we hope to see more strains of regular cannabis seeds that will come out that will be stable cannabis strains to help medical cannabis patients with exact illnesses over time. Get more background information on strain and their genetic make up can be recorded more easily over time.
We hope that over time more growers will become interested in the genetic makeup of cannabis plants, and more research into the makeup of the plant now that it is becoming legal in more parts of the world. This will be great for the community as they will be able to pick the traits that they are looking for in their own perfect cannabis strains.