The breeding science behind the Amsterdam Genetics collection of cannabis seeds is an expertise that most growers dream to own. But the new weed strains with their incredible traits do not appear magically, do they? It is a long complex process requiring knowledge and caution. The good news though is that it can be learned. In this blog, you are going to discover the basic keys to breeding your own cannabis strains successfully. And who knows…you might be the next king/queen of cannabis breeding!
What Do Breeders Do?
Nowadays, we have almost forgotten that a cannabis strain charged with 25% THC is not natural: it requires sometimes decades of work and expertise. Weed in the ’60s had only 3 to 5% THC levels and there was not so much choice in terms of psychoactive effects, taste, color, and growing patterns.
Although cannabis plants are quite adaptable, before the start of genetics breeding in the ’70s, it was more of a challenge to safely bring a grow to maturity. The environmental conditions such as weather, soil, and pests combined with weaker plants brought more uncertainty into the equation. To improve the situation, breeders boldly went on a quest around the world to find cannabis landraces. And they brought them back to breed new generations of weed. Just to give you an idea, the famous OG Kush bred in 1992 has a multicultural family tree including Thai, Pakistani, and Indian cannabis landraces. And that was before the Amsterdam Genetics experts got their hands on these seeds…
The cannabis landraces, strains that originated in their natural environment, were originally related to sativa and indica strains until the autoflower characteristic of ruderalis landrace was acknowledged. Ruderalis could start flowering independently of light schedule! This was the beginning of breeding cannabis autoflower strains with sativa and/or indica traits which is a huge upside for growers.
From Grassroots & Landrace Cannabis To Breeding Modern Strains
Yet autoflower genetics were not the only improvement conceived by enhanced cannabis breeding. First and foremost, the crossbreeding of landraces and existing cultivars led to an explosion in available genetics around the globe. The incredible diversity available to growers today is all due to the hard work of pioneers breeding cannabis to suit increasingly sophisticated demands!
The process of cannabis cultivation is far from complete, though. Even today, new incredible strains keep popping up from all directions. Amsterdam is still a global hub of advanced cannabis breeding, but our colleagues in the US, Canada, and a growing number of other countries have joined us in the effort to make ever more potent, tastier, and stronger plants available to growers. Best of all, however, is the fact that ANY home grower can join the fun… Here’s a quick introduction to breeding your own unique hybrid cannabis strains!
Picking Strains For Cannabis Breeding
As an apprentice breeder, it is essential that you get a good knowledge of the landraces’ traits (dominant and recessive) with an additional basic understanding of genetics and inheritance. From there, you will need male and female plants of the desired parent plants. Breeders specifically define the characteristics they are looking for in the new unique hybrid: you need a precise plan. You will make your choice among cannabis traits generally related to essential objectives:
- Grow patterns: the size and allure of the plant, flowering time, and yields
- Toughness: growing speed, resistance to pests, climate preferences, hardness of branches
- Buds: psychoactive effect, color, aroma, cannabinoids, and terpenes
Once this is clear, you can roll your sleeves and light up your brain to start the delicate operation of breeding.
How Does Breeding Cannabis Strains Work?
The first step is to test the phenotype, meaning the behavior of the plant genetics in a certain environment. If you plan to grow your plants outdoors, it will generate different results on a certain strain than growing indoors. That is why you will have to consider the factors influencing the growing processes such as temperature, humidity, nutrients, lighting, and watering.
And of course, do not forget to record all the different operations and results from day one.
Then comes the obvious: the selection of “good” parents meaning a female and a male exhibiting the qualities you wish in your hybrid. Just try to grow a few seeds of the strains you like and see how they do. The females are easier to pick because the buds say a lot. It is indeed difficult to know in advance how the male genetics will influence the buds of the offspring.
The next step is to marry the same male plant with a bunch of different female specimens (up to 20). Obviously, you can’t proceed to this step until both your male and female plants display the reproductive organs marking the start of the flowering phase. And then it’s time to let nature run its course and see what happens.
The marriage here means the pollination of the female by the male pollen. The pollen is released in the air from the male sacs and naturally lands on the female plants. This will cause the flower buds to sprout seeds, which is a marked difference from a regular grow in which pollination and seed formation is avoided at all costs to produce bigger flowers. When breeding new cannabis strains, however, seeds are exactly what we are after!
For your convenience, most of our strains are fully feminized, guaranteeing almost 100% female plants for maximum yields. However, if you want to try breeding your own strains using males, we have regular non-feminized seeds available, too!
You can always stimulate the pollination manually using a brush directly on the female or shake the pollen from the male onto the female. To avoid unwanted pollination though, it is mandatory to isolate the plants in a hermetic breeding chamber! Three to four weeks after flowering you will be able to harvest the mature seeds and let them dry. This is your first generation of hybrids: F1 with a clear phenotype and desired traits. Which traits these are is of course entirely up to the breeder – in this case, that’s you.
From this solid base, you can reinforce the genetics using the backcrossing technique and make sure the traits will pass to the following generations.
What Is Backcrossing?
The seeds that you order carry in their core history of years of crossing and backcrossing and phenotype experimentation to stabilize the traits. Far from a quick fix, they are instead a monument to the savoir-faire and breeding expertise patiently developed over many decades of trial and error.
The backcrossing technique is used to make sure the traits will be present twice in the male and female, increasing their chance of reappearing in the next generation. You do this quite simply by selecting a male from the F1 offspring and coupling it with the mother plant. This “incestuous” intercourse will ensure that the genetics is represented more strongly in the offspring. Traits such as taste, effect, or bud color will appear more often in the following generations. It all depends upon your own favourite cannabis flavours, grower’s preferences, and breeding objectives.
A less popular technique called selfing is to pollinate the mother plant with a clone of herself. This is done by mutating the clone into a hermaphrodite through stress. Pollen sacs appear and you pollinate the mother with the pollen of the trans-clone. But the risk of ending up with hermaphrodites in the next generation generally dissuades growers to use selfing breeding.
The Best Seeds = The Best Breeds
If you feel that you have the breeder gene in you and that you wish to dive deeper into growing cannabis, feel free to order your parents’ seeds in our online shop… and start creating your own strains! With the best genetics, you are bound to succeed.
Excellent genetics is the start of the journey, and your expertise will do the rest. Our grow blogs give you lots of solid and exhaustive information about phenotypes, growing techniques, and of course detailed strain descriptions.
No matter what you do, though, remember that guiding the evolution of weed takes a fair bit of patience.Breeding your own strains is a long journey of trial and error, but rest assured that there is something to be learned for every grower here!