How many times have I typed that in my life? More than I can count for sure but this statement has never held more truth. The modern day expansion of legal cannabis cannot take place without good solid genetics. I have written before about the process of breeding but it’s time for a refresher course IMO. I was on my Podcast the other day (The Weed Nerd Live Show) and I asked about 250 viewers how many of them had created their own seeds. The response was over whelming and I thought how will the powers at be ever regulate this plant? But, that is something for another article.
Creating cannabis seeds has been something I have spent the last 3 decades practicing. There is the genetic side of things to figure out as well as the logistics for heavy yields of seeds per plant, just like flowers. I will attempt to cover a few aspects of both these disciplines for your enjoyment today.
The male cannabis plant is somewhat of a unicorn among growers but each plant holds his own magical contributions to the gene pool. I have always found it funny that some of the larger cannabis seed breeders have list after list of female plants but only a small selection of male plants. Male cannabis plants are actually responsible for hidden attributes like vigor, pest resistance and flower support. The male Cannabis plant is equally as beautiful to me as a huge cola. He carries half of the genetic code that is responsible for creating the Dank and without him we could not create some of the amazing hybrids we have like Pennywise and Deadlights.
Timing is Everything
The earliest males to show sex and produce male flowers is something to avoid. Using the earliest males that flower will result in less potency and resin production. Male flowers actually form trichomes – you don’t see it often but it’s definitely something I look for when selecting a male plant to breed with. In nature Cannabis is a hemp-dominant species and the drug traits we seek for medication have been bred into the plant over thousands of years my man’s intervention. In the wild these hemp-dominant males acclimate the variety and the drug traits are dominated by other traits like fiber production and vigor.
Dave’s Not HereMan!
One thing we should cover is male cluster formation. The male flower can tell you a lot about its potential in the terms of potency, yield, vigor and overall health.
When selecting a male for breeding we run him as a mature, full-size plant and we want to see if he has met all our other breeding criteria, so that if he makes big gnarly male clusters it will indicate the bud formation he might pass on. Do the male flowers get powdery mildew or mold if left untreated or in moist conditions? When the flowers open, look for males that release copious amounts of pollen. You will see that some males release average amounts of pollen, but if you grow enough males you will see some true studs that produce an abundance of pollen. Our prize Space Queen male drops insane amounts of pollen (ounces and ounces) and these males have always passed on large yielding plants from their seeds.
Other than out-crossing a selected male and studying his outward appearance, the smell of a male plant is a huge determining factor. When you rub the stem of a potential breeding male and your fingers are covered in gooey resin that has a pleasant odor its actually a good sign he will pass on these traits. Smell plays a huge roll in my selection process and once a male plant is sexually mature at about day 45 I analyze each plant by rubbing each stem and making notes on the ones I like best. This may seem very basic but it’s been my experience that a skunky-sour male will lend this smell trait to a new hybrid. Conversely, if the male doesn’t smell incredibly dank the results are less than satisfactory.
The final attribute I look for in a new male is resin. The number and frequency of non-glandular trichomes on a young male plant can be a huge indicator as to the quality of the plant. If a plant smells great and is covered in resin at day 45 I will absolutely give him a try with one of our best females.
In nature the male and female plant flower at about the same time as the goal is reproduction and not producing as many seeds as possible. By pre-flowering the female plants 7-10 days early, according to strain origin, we can greatly increase the amount of seeds produced on a single female plant.
We have a specially designed 8×8 room that is sealed and vented. All air leaving is filtered and then pushed through a water trap to prevent our outdoor crop from being pollinated. The female plants are placed into the main bud room 7 days prior to the male. At Day 7 the male is placed in the breeding room by himself to start producing pollen while we determine the best window between day 21 and day 28 according to the flowering time of the mother plant. Once we determine the pollination window the female plants are loaded in with the male and we will then actually kick the container the male plant is growing in while turning on all the fans.
I allow my males to hang out with my mothers for a few days with a small fan positioned on the male and females standing in the air stream. As the stamen open the pollen naturally flies into the air providing max coverage. We also like to pluck off ripe pods and gently roll them between our fingers over each cola head. This is how we capture the amazing suspended pollen shots I set as a standard and MzJill later perfected.
At this point the male plant is killed, submerged under water and removed from the breeding area. I wash the females well with water in a spray pump moving the female plants in a circle and making sure I get rid of any excess pollen. We do this to avoid stray pollen once the room is opened up. Time destroys pollen but moisture does it even faster, so this is a failsafe to prevent unwanted seeds in our Sensimelia plants.
While flowers on a cannabis plant will be mature in 8 weeks the seeds take a bit longer and MzJill and myself prefer to let the seeded plants basically die on the stems. This assures the maximum amount of seeds. The seeds are then cured, very similar to our flowers, and stored in open jars. After 3 weeks we do a germination test on 100 seeds and we expect 99% if we have done everything right.
I hope you have enjoyed just a small look at the science and mechanics behind the production of seeds. Why not plant one today and see what pops up?
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 131