Cross-Breeding and Pollinating Cannabis: An Overview
Friday April 13, 2018
F ifteen years ago, buying a bag of weed was like rolling the dice. Sometimes, the product was fire, other times, not so much. But with the help of legalization, cannabis has evolved over the last few decades at an incredible rate. Today, thousands of different strains line dispensary shelves each with their own unique terpene and cannabinoid profiles (and some pretty interesting strain names, too) carefully designed to elicit a variety of outcomes – from energetic to lethargic and everything in between. But where do these strains come from? And are they really as different as they make themselves out to be?
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The answer to the latter question is a simple “yes.” Unless it is an exact genetic copy, every strain – even strains with the same name – will vary to some degree. The answer to the former question regarding the origin of cannabis strains, however, is more complex. If done correctly though, it could be as close as your own back yard or grow room.
Why Cross-Breed Cannabis?
Have you ever wondered why some cannabis strains make you super sleepy while others make you talkative? Why some taste like pine needles and dirt while others taste like soap or grape soda? Or even why the great indica versus sativa debate is important to begin with? Cannabis breeders do.
In fact, these are some of the most common questions on a cannabis strain breeder’s mind, or more specifically, how can they create the perfect strain by combining all the best features from different strains into a whole new one that everyone will love.
Breeders do this by carefully selecting “parent” strains with the most favorable traits, then cross-breeding them until they achieve the perfect blend of both parents minus as many negative qualities as possible. The process can take years and countless generations to perfect but the results are well worth it.
How to Create Customized Strains by Cross-Breeding
Creating unique cannabis strains takes both patience and persistence. The process requires that a male cannabis plant be grown to near maturity so that he will produce pollen. The pollen is then used to encourage the female to produce seeds by sprinkling it directly onto the female plant between the second and fourth week of the flower cycle.
Seeds that are collected from a female plant must then be grown to maturity and carefully selected for their most desirable traits.
These could be traits from either parent or a combination of both and will likely produce varying results until it has been backcrossed to stabilize the strain’s phenotypical genetics. This is done by selecting the strain with the most favorable characteristics then back-crossing it with itself or a parent plant until the resulting phenotype becomes consistent.
Even then, however, the actual phenotype (or the outward characteristics of the plant) may vary slightly between seeds due to many factors like grow conditions, nutrient levels, harvest time, curing method and so on. Perhaps the only way to guarantee stabilized genetics is through the use of cannabis tissue propagation, though widespread use of this practice is still a few years out, at least.
Famous Cannabis Breeders
Breeding the perfect bud takes a lot of practice and some serious know-how to make it happen. Though anyone can research and try their hand at cannabis breeding, some have worked extremely hard to make a name for themselves in the cannabis seed game. Expert breeders are notorious for creating top-of-the-line strains that grow well, produce consistent buds and take home multiple rewards in the process. Here are some of the best cannabis seed breeders to look out for.
TGA Genetics is the collective title of seed breeding power duo, Subcool and MzJill. With popular strains like Agent Orange and Chernobyl saturating the West Coast, TGA Genetics has become a household name in the weed growing scene.
Since the 1970’s, Soma has been perfecting his cannabis genetics through careful research and quite a bit of trial-and-error, creating some of the most potent cannabis on the market today. With a special focus on the terpene content of his plants and the aromatherapy benefits to cannabis, Soma has created an array of award-winning strains like Lavender, NYC Diesel, and Amnesia Haze.
Sensi Seeds is known world-wide for it’s huge contribution to cannabis genetics as we know them today. Having won more awards globally than any other seed bank, its founder, Dronkers, has dedicated his life to improving and preserving the best cannabis genetics on the market. He is responsible for creating popular strains like Jack Herer and Silver Haze, and it is his genetics that other breeders seek when crossbreeding due to the stability of the strains.
The countless cannabis strains lining dispensary shelves did not get there by accident. Years of careful breeding – and a lot of trial-and-error – have afforded us the ability to choose our cannabis based on flavor, appearance, potency, cannabinoid flavor and many more characteristics so that our marijuana experiences can be just as unique as our preferences.
Have you ever tried to cross-breed cannabis? Tell us about your experience.
Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
Do you know how some of your favorite marijuana strains came to be? For many, it's because of cross-breeding. Through pollination and of trial-and-error, cannabis breeders have been able to create tons of new and exciting strains. Check this out to learn more about pollination and cross-breeding.
Beginner’s Guide to Marijuana Strains
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Cannabis use is on the rise in the United States. A 2018 study notes that, while cannabis use among teens has decreased, American adults are increasingly using cannabis on the daily.
According to Forbes, the global cannabis industry is estimated to be worth $7.7 billion. It’s projected to hit $31.4 billion by 2021.
The industry is booming in part because cannabis can be a versatile form of medication. A number of research studies have found that cannabis has the potential to help with a variety of medical conditions, including anxiety, chronic pain, and epilepsy.
But, as any recreational or medical marijuana user can tell you, not all cannabis is created equal. Different strains of cannabis produce different effects, and thus can be used for different reasons.
If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re looking to try it, but not sure which strains best suit your needs, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to marijuana strains below.
If you’ve read a little about marijuana, or if you enter most dispensaries, you might see the words indica, sativa, and hybrid. Generally, most people divide marijuana into these three categories.
Indica, which originates from the Hindu Kush mountains of India, is believed to have a relaxing effect on the user. Sativa has a more energizing effect, while hybrid is a combination of the two.
Many industry experts, however, are reconsidering the indica, sativa and hybrid categories. According to Amos Elberg, head of data science at Confident Cannabis, these terms are more or less meaningless.
“We see samples of all cannabis products tested through our partner labs, and when we look at all the data, particularly of the chemical makeup of flower, we see no identifiable characteristics that are consistent with indica, sativa, or hybrid,” he explains.
“Essentially people are using these terms as catchalls for effect, but they’re not all consistent with those effects. Some indica makes some people wired, not couch-locked, for instance.”
In other words, people shouldn’t be alarmed if a reportedly energizing sativa strain has more of a mellowing effect, or if an indica strain makes them feel more bubbly and excitable.
Beyond indica, sativa, and hybrid, dispensaries might divide the types of cannabis they have into strains. Strains are essentially different breeds of cannabis, and they’re bred to have specific effects on the user.
But if the terms indica, sativa, and hybrid are essentially useless categorizations, are strain names also meaningless?
Not exactly, says Elberg.
“Not all seeds that are sold under the same name are genetically identical, or even necessarily related. Some producers may choose to create a strain name essentially as a branding exercise, or to identify their product with an existing name because they believe the product matches characteristics the market expects from product sold under that name,” Elberg explains.
There are, however, still consistencies among product sold under specific strain names, Elberg adds.
“In general, for the less common names, product sold by different vendors tends to be pretty consistent,” he notes. “For the most common strain names, however, a wider variety of different products are sold.”
If you purchase product from a quality source, the strains should be more or less consistent. Bear in mind, however, that every person reacts differently to cannabis.
The strain you choose depends on what effect you desire. As mentioned earlier, cannabis has a range of medical uses, but some strains are better for certain conditions than others.
It’s also worth researching the potential adverse effects of the strain. Many of the more common strains, which you can find below, list dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness as possible side effects. Marijuana also has the potential to interact with medications you might be taking. Do not operate machinery when using marijuana.
According to user reviews on Leafly, here’s what people might expect from a few of the most popular marijuana strains.
Originating from Acapulco, Mexico, Acapulco Gold is a well-known and highly praised strain of cannabis. It’s noted for its euphoria-inducing, energizing effects. It’s said to reduce fatigue, stress, pain, and even nausea.
Blue Dream is relaxing and soothing, but it isn’t a total sedative. This makes it perfect for easing pain, cramps, or inflammation for when you can’t afford to fall asleep. Plus, it’s said to lift your mood and give you a feeling of euphoria.
Purple Kush is great for inducing a state of bliss so that you feel relaxed, happy, and sleepy. It’s often used for reducing pain and muscle spasms. Its sedating effects means it can be used to reduce insomnia.
A highly energizing, mood-lifting strain, Sour Diesel is great for giving you a burst of productive energy. It also has notable destressing and pain-relieving effects.
Bubba Kush is a relaxing, sleep-inducing strain. It’s perfect for helping you fight insomnia and get some shut-eye. It also offers pain-reducing, stress-relieving results.
Granddaddy Purple is another highly relaxing strain. It’s often praised for its insomnia-fighting and stress-reducing results. Users also note that it can make you feel euphoria and increase hunger, which is great if you’re experiencing a lack of appetite.
Originating from the Hindu Kush mountains near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Afghan Kush is super relaxing and sleep-inducing. This, too, can help you feel hungry if you’re experiencing a lack of appetite, and can relieve pain.
LA Confidential is another relaxing and sleep-inducing strain that is often used to soothe insomnia. It’s also said to have noticeable anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects, which makes it a favorite among people with chronic pain.
Maui Wowie can help you feel super relaxed, yet energetic and creative. It reduces fatigue, too, making it great for days when you need to be productive.
Golden Goat is notable for making users feel euphoric and creative. It’s also great for reducing fatigue and stress while lifting your mood.
Northern Lights is another relaxing, sleep-inducing strain. It’s also known for its mood-lifting effects, and it can be used to relieve insomnia, pain, stress, and depression.
White Widow improves your mood, gives you energy, and relaxes you all at once. It’s said to help reduce pain and stress, as well as feelings of depression. If you’re feeling fatigued, White Widow might help you stay energized and alert.
Super Silver Haze
Another energizing strain, Super Silver Haze is said to produce feelings of euphoria, relieves pain and nausea, and lifts your mood. This makes it excellent for stress relief.
Made famous by the 2008 eponymous movie, Pineapple Express has a pineapple-like scent. It’s relaxing and mood lifting, but is also said to give you an energetic buzz. This is the sort of strain that could be great for productivity.
Fruity Pebbles OG, or FPOG, is associated with inducing euphoria and relaxation, which could make it great for stress relief. It often makes users feel giggly, helps reduce nausea, and increases appetite.
If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re interested in trying — or even growing — different types of cannabis strains, there are a number of products that can make your life a little easier.
Some people might prefer inhaling cannabis over smoking it through a pipe, bong, or joint. This desktop vaporizer heats up cannabis and expels the vapor into a balloon. The person then inhales the air from the balloon.
The vaporizer can be used with dried herbs or liquid concentrates, and can be purchased here.
Magical Butter Kit
Cannabutter — or cannabis-infused butter — is the basis of many edibles. Unfortunately, making cannabutter can be a lengthy and labor-intensive process.
This butter kit, however, makes it easy to infuse herbs into butter. It has its own heating unit and thermostat, which ensures that the product and butter are at the ideal temperature throughout the process.
tCheck Dosage Checker
The tCheck Dosage Checker tests the strength of cannabis-infused liquids — like alcohol-based tinctures. It can also test cannabis-infused olive oil, ghee (clarified butter), and coconut butter, which will help you determine how strong your edibles are before you indulge.
Unfortunately, it only checks liquids, not dried herb.
Grinding up cannabis can be time-consuming, so the Palm Mincer can be quite useful. It fits perfectly into your palm, and it can be used to chop up cannabis quickly and efficiently. What’s more it’s dishwasher safe, so it’s easy to clean off the sticky cannabis resin. You can buy it I here.
Harvest Starter Kit
If you want to start growing your own cannabis, this convenient starter kit contains everything you need to harvest it.
The grow kit includes a trimming tray, a microscope for examining the buds to determine whether they’re ready for harvest, three types of pruning shears, a disinfecting spray for your tools, a drying rack, and gloves.
Note: Even if marijuana is legal in your state, it continues to be illegal under federal law.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and journalist based in Grahamstown, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.
Last medically reviewed on September 26, 2018
Not all cannabis is created equal. Different strains of cannabis produce different effects, and thus can be used for different reasons. If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re looking to try it, but not sure which strains best suit your needs, we’ve got you covered with this beginner’s guide.