How Are New Marijuana Strains Created?
What is the Breeding Process?
A breeder aims to create the "perfect plant." They choose parent plants with qualities close to the ideal. Once they've selected parent plants with desired traits, they cross them to create the first generation of plants, called F1.
The breeder then evaluates the F1 plants and selects the most promising ones. Another crossing of F1 plants occurs, either through inbreeding (crossing among themselves) or backcrossing (crossing with parent plants).
The breeder then studies and evaluates plants from the first generation F1, second generation F2, and selects the best plants with desired characteristics for growing the third generation F3. It's the third generation that is typically stable, although in some cases, such as with autoflowering strains, it's necessary to obtain a fourth generation for stability.
Who is a Breeder?
A breeder is a professional who creates cannabis strains and sells them on the market. They seek the perfect plant. In other words, they strive to improve and diversify existing cannabis strains. Of course, for each breeder, the concept of a perfect plant is individual. Parameters are very subjective, although many breeders react to factors such as market demand and economic profitability of the production process.
Breeders create a wide range of genetic combinations of the best strains on the modern market. It can be said that breeders are the driving force behind progress and innovation because without them, there would be no new cannabis strains.
What do breeders look for when creating a new strain?
Breeders highly value this trait, as strong and high-quality plants grow quickly and produce higher yields.
Since hemp is grown all over the world and in vastly different climatic conditions, adaptability is an important trait.
Sturdiness is a plant's ability to withstand adverse weather conditions such as cold or hot temperatures, moisture, or drought.
Resistance to pests and diseases
Like sturdiness, strains must be resistant to specific pests and diseases.
Controlling plant ripening is a fundamental factor in breeding. Whether hemp is grown for fiber, buds, or seeds, it is important to know when the harvest will ripen to gather it in time.
Yield is another feature that breeders pay close attention to. When evaluating yield, attention should be paid to the size of the flowers and buds. A 1:1 ratio is quite poor, 2:1 is normal, 4:5 is good, and 7:10 is excellent. A good ratio between flowers and buds is synonymous with a good harvest.
For obvious reasons, this is one of the most important aspects of plants, and various factors must be taken into account:
- Shape and size
- Bloom time
- Cannabinoid content
- Amount of cannabinoids
- Trichome count
- Resin amount
- Resin quality
The Stages of Cannabis Breeding
Selection is at the core of all breeding and propagation processes. In the cannabis industry, genetic analysis is used to identify patterns that appear in the phenotypes of generations.
It is crucial that the pollen of the parent plants, selected by the breeder for their characteristics, passes on genetic information to the next generation.
Obviously, the result depends on whether genetic selection is made from a large or small sample. Choosing the best plant from ten is unlikely, but choosing the best from a thousand is realistic.
Growing large samples for genetic selection requires space, a lot of time, knowledge, and investment. Not all breeders have abundant resources, which is why they apply early selection at the seedling stage. It is clear that seedlings take up less space than adult plants, and the main traits of the plants can already be determined at this stage.
Goals of selection and breeding
Selection and breeding pursue many goals. Many breeders engage in genetic selection to:
- Plant Size: Depends on the growing conditions, environment, and genetics. Size is what breeders focus on during the breeding process, especially when creating new strains for indoor cultivation. In such cases, it is best to avoid sativa, as the resulting plants will be too large and will not fit in an indoor space or greenhouse.
- Productivity: Creating high-yielding strains is the primary direction for most breeders in today's market.
- Potential: High THC content has been the main goal of breeders in recent decades. However, many breeders have recently shifted their focus to increasing the content of other cannabinoids, such as CBD, in their plants.
Improve and consolidate quality
Often, offspring acquire a desired trait that was not expressed in the parent plants, and in the process of selection and breeding, this trait can be fixed to be consistently present in future generations. That is why there are many versions of the same variety on the market today.
Create a new variety
Clients and the market motivate breeders to constantly watch for novelties.
Selection is a difficult task with no guarantee of success. If for any reason the parent plants disappear, breeders may decide to try to reproduce the lost genetic combination. The results can be very good, but without proper laboratory equipment, identical genetics cannot be obtained. Breeders can achieve up to 90% accuracy.
Create varieties that are suitable for different weather conditions
Thanks to its great adaptability, cannabis is grown all over the world. Millions of people grow and harvest excellent crops. In connection with this, breeders create varieties with genetic characteristics that are suitable for specific environmental conditions.
The phenotype of a cannabis plant depends on several factors, such as the environment and growing conditions. Nevertheless, genes play a crucial role, and morphology is a critical aspect that should be taken into account when breeding.
Increasing Cannabinoid Content
Cannabinoids have a wide range of medical and recreational applications. That's why so much effort has been invested in creating strains with high CBD content. For decades, breeders have been obsessed with increasing THC levels, but scientific research demonstrating the therapeutic properties of CBD has led to an increase in demand for pure CBD strains.