People have selectively bred cannabis for centuries to better suit a growing environment or to fill a need. Today, we selectively breed our cannabis to get the perfect flavour combined with our ideal high. There are hybrids we all know and love. Think Lemon Haze, Super Sour Diesel, or Girl Scout Cookies. Hybrids are arguably some of the best strains on the market.
But do you know how hybrids are created? For those of you who aren’t amateur botanists, here are the basics of breeding cannabis hybrids:
Breeding cannabis isn’t as simple as leaving two plants in a room together (although it can be). It takes a lot of time and energy (and sampling) to create the perfect new mixture. Here’s how some of your favourite strains were born:
Before We Begin . . .
To start, here’s a little plant science for you. Most plants are monoecious, which means they have both the male and female organs on each plant. Cannabis, however, is diolecious. That means plants are either male or female, not both.
Typically, cannabis consumers are only worried about the female plant because only the females produce buds for us. But if you want to breed cannabis, you need a male plant present to pollinate the female plant.
Choosing the Strains
Typically a breeder will choose two strains that compliment each other well. They will have stopped and considered the different flavours and characteristics they want in their new strain. Remember, typically the female strain’s qualities will be more dominant overall, so what you taste and feel usually comes from the female plant.
Now it’s time to start mixing. There are two different ways to pollinate the female. First, you can separate the male completely from the female. The grower will harvest the pollen from the male and either use it to pollinate the females right then. Or, he or she will store it in the freezer if the females aren’t flowering yet. To pollinate, they gently brush the pollen onto a couple flowers or the entire plant.
The other option for pollination is to place one male in an enclosed space with a couple female plants and allow pollination to occur naturally. The downside of this method is growers can’t use pollen from multiple males and can’t control how many flowers are pollinated.
Once the females have been pollinated, you need to wait for the seeds. When the seeds are mature, they’re harvested, dried and planted.
Plant and Grow
Once the seeds are planted and grown, the grower can see how the genetics of the mother and father varieties express themselves in each plant (now’s also the time for some sampling!) Unfortunately, most of the seeds won’t be the same.
Heterozygous vs. Homozygous
Once the new hybrid is grown, it’s time to give the buds a try. But remember that not all the seeds will have identical genetics. Think about it this way: you and your siblings have different genetics even though you have the same parents. So all the seeds have different genetic mixtures and can give you a completely different experience. You can find out how growers create a homozygous strain (one with the same genetic makeup for every plant) here.
So growing the perfect hybrid seems pretty simple, but it’s very difficult and time consuming. Now that you know all the work that it takes to create your favourite hybrid, you’ve probably got a new appreciation for it.
Show some appreciation for hybrid growers. Browse our favourite hybrids online or visit your nearest dispensary to give them a try. Take the time to really appreciate the flavours and effects of a new hybrid or old favourite– the grower put a lot of time and effort to ensure you could!