While browsing through marijuana strains, you may be wondering about the terminology of crossbreeding. Crossbreeding is a common method of breeding that is done by combining two strains of weed to form a new one. A hybrid has a combination of both genetics that produces an entirely different plant. These are normally created by breeding different plants together. The result can be backcrossing, where the marijuana plant goes through several generations to create a consistent quality strain.
Cannabis breeders are inventive people. They always work to improve their strains by increasing their potency or size. Most breeders do this by purifying their plants, combining strains, and enhancing or reducing certain plant traits. When growing and breeding, it’s important to know the genetic background of your seeds. Ask vendors for detailed histories of how seeds were bred and what they were crossed with, especially when it comes to high-value products.
One of the most fascinating parts of cannabis cultivation is always being on the prowl for new genetics. With a few key tools and a pinch of luck, you can make your own strains by starting with clone cuttings. The act of cultivating cannabis is an art form. You’ve got to nurture a crop and shape it as a living, breathing work of art. One of the most satisfying parts of this process is molding your own cultivars from unique genetic strains.
What is breeding in simple terms?
There are two main types of cannabis plants: male and female. Female marijuana plants, which produce the sticky buds that we love so much, are what consumers are primarily concerned with. However, male cannabis plants are very important for breeding. They’re used to pollinate the females, or “bud producing” plants.
Super Lemon Haze, a popular cannabis strain, was created by breeding Super Silver Haze and Lemon Skunk together. The resulting “cross” (or hybrid) has great attributes from both parents: Sativa uplifting effects that are energizing but not rushed, and Indica relaxing effects that calm the mind in all situations.
To create the best possible product, we need a male (swollen with pollen) of one strain to pollinate a female (with seeds) of another. Once crossed, the seeds from the female will be harvested and grown separately — voila: You have created a hybrid. When you’re choosing the male plant to cross with a female, how do you know whether the offspring will be female or male?
Often the attributes of a female cannabis plant carry over to her offspring (the seeds) more than the male. That said, male traits are often apparent to the discerning grower so one should definitely choose a male that will complement the attributes of the female. The gender of your cannabis plants can matter when it comes to which specific genetics end up in each seed.
How to create your own cannabis breed?
After the male and female cannabis seeds are selected for breeding, they are placed into a male-female breeding chamber. The breeding chamber can be any enclosed environment with plastic sheeting on the sides or it can be specially designed. The males can also pollinate many females; some can even cover the plants entirely with seeds. Good genetic stock is always necessary for successful cannabis crops.
This is a controlled system of pollination—anyone who’s accidentally grown a male plant and filled their whole crop with seeds will know that one male weed can easily pollinate hundreds of females, filling your whole crop with seeds.
Once your plants have been placed in the breeding chamber, you can allow them to grow vegetatively for several more weeks before giving them a 12-hour light cycle (on/off). This is optional. You can start flowering immediately if you wish.
Pollen from the male plant will attach to the female plant and grow its eggs. This is important for the fertilization of the female plant. Let’s make sure we keep it under a plastic tent, because pollen from outside could ruin the breeding. Don’t want to do that. The mature male will grow pollen sacs within the first couple weeks of its flowering phase.
In order to maximize pollen transfer, you can shake the pollen out of male flowers onto the females. Alternatively, you can collect pollen from a male plant and directly apply it to the female. These females will grow and flower during which time they’ll produce seeds. Seeds will genetically combine the genetic makeups of both parent plants.
The seeds are harvested, followed by stratification (drying and storing). In order to germinate, the seeds require the first stage of maturation to come to completion. Maturation happens in two phases: after the plant is dead and the seed is mature. For the plant to be considered mature, it must prematurely be harvested at three to four weeks before it is harvested for its flowers.
In this new hybrid, two separate parent breeds have been combined to create something new. These seeds will be grown on their own outside of a breeding environment.
What are phenotypes?
The process doesn’t stop there. The cannabis that you buy at the dispensary has likely gone through a lot of rounds of breeding to strengthen its genetic content and ensure consistent, quality strains.
Just as you and your sister are different even though you take after your parents, each cross-pollinated seed (or clone) will have a unique set of attributes from its parent strains. Each of these seeds (or clones) will have different traits, and you will not know how each one will express itself. Genetics is tricky!
Cannabis seeds that produce a lot of different phenotypes are heterozygous. You want a seed that’s homozygous, like the ones you’ll find with Smart Seeds. They guarantee consistency, ensuring that the resulting plant will provide the same genetics over and over again. This makes for dependable buyers and a dependable product.
Once a breeder has mixed the cannabis strains they want to cross, they must then choose which traits from each of the strains they like best. In order to grow on a large scale, they must choose a phenotype that will yield the highest yields and be produced at an efficient rate.
Again, we’re going back to Super Lemon Haze. This strain is a mix of two strains, Super Silver Haze and Lemon Skunk. Both strains bring a lot to the table in terms of their bud structure, trichome production, resin content, and appearance. But the wonderful flavors and aromas are actually from the former.
When a breeder’s goal is to select for two specific qualities — such as the size and structure of Super Silver Haze and the flavors and aromas of Lemon Skunk — they can cross their strains to create hybrid offspring with those qualities. When these best of their best are selected, the result is something that looks like a Super Silver Haze strain but acts like a Lemon Skunk strain.
THC content is the most important factor when breeding cannabis, and the higher the brain gets before being hit with a wave of couchlock, the better. However, other factors are also important such as height, yield, and taste. For example, breeder and grower Green House Seeds used to produce a strain called Super Lemon Haze. At first, this strain was tall and light green, but then it underwent selection for its high THC content and citrus aroma.
How to strengthen genetics?
To create a high-quality strain of cannabis that people can enjoy, growers will typically cross breed two potent strains and breed them to achieve a specific phenotype (i.e. blueberry flavor and purple flower). They will then take the final product and backcross it to strengthen its genetics.
In cannabis breeding, backcrossing is a practice in which breeders cross-pollinate the new strain with itself — essentially “breeding” it with another parent. This makes the strain even more homozygous, and strengthens its genetics.
You have a few different options to purchase marijuana, such as at a dispensary. Luckily for you, the pot that you buy has been through months and even years of growing, crossing, and backcrossing, which means that the phenotypes of this strain were carefully selected for the best qualities of each.
The key to breeding cannabis strains is patience. I’m a true breeder in every sense of the word, so I want to understand the plant, understand its growth patterns, and find out how I can make it better. To be a true breeder means being okay with ugly ducklings — lots of different cross-breeding experiments looking for that rare strain of cannabis you might stumble upon.