What Are Hybrid Cannabis Strains & How Are They Created?
As the demand for cannabis grows, so does experimentation with new strains. Most of the strains on the commercial market today are hybrids – plants bred from numerous different strains of cannabis to produce certain effects or features. This is a basic primer on what hybrids are, and some of the reasons they have become so popular.
Cannabis, like other plants, either exists as a pure breed, or as a hybrid mix of strains. As the industry has commercialised, both pure strains and existing hybrids are continually mixed and remixed. These new plants are known as hybrids.
Hybrids are a man-made attempt at customising plants with specific kinds of characteristics usually found in ruderalis, sativa, and indica strains. Successful hybrids inherit the best qualities from their parents.
This is a beginner’s guide to understanding where hybrids come from.
WHAT KINDS OF HYBRID STRAINS ARE THERE?
Generally, there are four types of strains:
- Sativa x sativa: Two different sativa varieties are bred together.
- Indica x indica: Two different indica varieties are bred together.
- Sativa x indica: A strain described this way is a hybrid with sativa-dominant characteristics. However, it has traits of both varieties of cannabis. It could be a tall plant with purple buds, for example.
- Indica x sativa: This variety will have characteristics of both, but is indica-dominant.
In addition, autoflowering hybrids are cultivars which have been mixed somewhere down the line with ruderalis genetics.
BREEDING NEW CANNABIS STRAINS
Breeding any plant involves the same basic process. Cannabis is no different. A female plant must be pollinated with male pollen. This happens naturally. However, in hybrid creation, breeders engage in selective breeding in a controlled environment. In other words, they pick the female plant and male pollen to produce a specific trait or set of them.
Seeds germinated by this process will be first generation hybrids of the male and female parents. Those with the desired traits will be bred again. Once these traits have been produced, breeders will “cube” the strain. In other words, they will breed a child hybrid with a parent strain to reinforce the characteristics. It is usually repeated across three or more generations to stabilise the characteristics.
Cannabis can also be propagated “sexually” or “asexually”. The sexual reproductive process involves combining different parents. However, vegetative methods also include cloning, cuttage, and even division of roots. Asexual reproduction allows the exact same plant to be produced again and again.
Wild strains are known as landrace cannabis strains. They refer to plants found growing in the wild that seem to have developed on their own without human interference. Wild strains come in one of three varieties:
These strains are short and shrubby. The high such plants create is usually a heavy “body stone”.
Sativa strains are known for their tall, tree-like growth and their cerebral highs.
This is a low-THC species of cannabis native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. There is some debate over whether ruderalis is a subspecies of sativa. At this point, most scholars accept that ruderalis is its own strain. The main reason this is such an important species of cannabis is that it is autoflowering. This means it will flower regardless of light cycle, unlike photoperiodic strains. As a result, this feature has been crossbred into both indica and sativa strains, which normally require specific periods of photosynthesis. If you are using an autoflowering strain, it has been crossbred with a ruderalis strain at some point.
As the name suggests, hybrid cannabis strains are the result of a crossbreeding either pure strains or other hybrids into a new strain. One of the earliest hybrids is known as “Skunk”. This is the first known crossing of an indica and sativa, but it was certainly not the last.
Strains are bred primarily for:
Specific cannabinoid content
Many hybrids are a mix of both indica and sativa “parents”. This allows breeders to determine the kind of impact the strain will have. Going for a couch-lock? Try an indica-dominant strain. Seeking cerebral creativity? Look for sativa-dominant strains. Want an autoflowering strain? That will be a hybrid of a ruderalis, plus another strain. As medical research expands, more and more breeds are being created to sustain specific concentrations of certain cannabinoids. Many strains of cannabis will maximise THC or CBD. Medical cannabis for children, for example, is bred from specific hybrid strains of cannabis that will always contain low levels of THC, but high amounts of CBD.
Growing in or outdoors imposes its own restrictions on cultivator choice. Sativas grow tall and tree-like. Indicas tend to be shrubby. However, hybrids can be selected for size, bushiness, and other features. Some sativa hybrids, in other words, can be mistaken for indicas.
These strains are all crossed at some point with a ruderalis parent. What this means is that your plant will bloom regardless of hours of light exposure.
Some plants are more resinous than others. Hybrids are specifically crossed for their resin content. Indicas tend to be more resinous than sativas, but hybrids change the game here too.
Terpenes & flavonoids
As more is understood about whole plant medicine, the role of essential oils is being re-examined. Hybrids that combine essential oils have begun to appear on the market, but they are still in their early days.
How much a plant can produce comes from its heritage.
Hardiness (and colour)
Some strains of cannabis – notably indicas – come from areas of the world where temperatures are cold and the days are short. Such features can be bred into hybrids, including the ability to turn purple. Purple cannabis is a huge favourite among those in the know. These days, the trait can be bred without stressing the plant with cold air during the growing process.
Disease and pest resistance
Just like humans, some plant strains are more resistant to their environment and natural predators.
NOT ALL HYBRIDS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Developing a successful hybrid takes time and work. And not all hybrids are really the same.
This is a strain that has been grown into a plant with certain characteristics. The grower can make genetically identical clones of the plant and distribute them. A clone is the only way to ensure that the exact genetic makeup of this plant is perpetuated. However, growing conditions will greatly affect the final product.
Stable seed strain
A breeder who selects both male and female plants will breed them over and over again to stabilise specific attributes. The final stable seed will have such traits every time the seeds are grown. That said, there will always be some genetic variation.
Unstable seed strain
While these can be produced more quickly than stable seed strains, they are all over the map in terms of features. Reputable seed shops will not sell unstable strains.
Cannabis is increasingly crossbred into new plants called hybrids to sustain certain characteristics. This is a quick overview of what hybrids are.
How to Grow Your Own First Generation Hybrid Marijuana Plant
Creating your very own first generation hybrid marijuana plant is taking your growing skills to the next level. This is artistry in the area of breeding to bring your creative potential to the marijuana garden. This article is a crash course in plant heredity, and how to begin with creating your very own strain of marijuana.
- Things you should know about plant reproduction and plant heredity
- Other factors
- The method
So you want to create your very own strain of marijuana and play God in your garden! Growing your own strain of marijuana is far more advanced than growing from seeds you already have, and this is not recommended for people who are only beginner growers. This process is about good breeding, and in order to breed successfully one must first be a good grower. Breeding is also all about your creation – this is an opportunity to make a strain that doesn’t exist already out of your two favourite strains of marijuana.
So be careful which plants you choose, and pay attention to the traits that they have that you would like to be in your gene pool. This is going to be a beginner’s guide to breeding, but the best advice is to do your research before attempting this so that you don’t go wasting weed. And if you haven’t grown anything before, master the art of growing weed before attempting to breed your own strain.
Things you should know about plant reproduction and plant heredity
It’s necessary to have some understanding about plant reproduction and plant heredity before going ahead with breeding your own strain of marijuana. The first thing to understand about plant reproduction is how it is that traits get passed on from parent plants to the subsequent plant. Each cannabis plant contains ten pairs of chromosomes, each pair being made up of a female gene and a male gene. There are, then, 20 chromosomes in each cannabis plant. These chromosomes are what make up the characteristics of the plant itself, including taste, colour, smell, and potency. Each cell contains two genes, which make up one chromosome for each characteristic.
It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with how heredity works in plants to give yourself a better understanding of how it is that plants attain their characteristics from their parents. It is not essential, as you will soon gain an understanding after experimenting with your mother and father and observing the offspring.
How to Make Your Own Cannabis Lube
In order to understand how your breeding is going to take place, it is also necessary to understand the difference between the types of breeding. For example, inbreeding creates what is called a pure breed. This kind of plant has quite consistent traits with little variation between the plants. This is because the chromosomes in the plant are consistent. When you are choosing which plants you are going to be outbreeding, make sure you are choosing purebred plants. This ensures that their characteristics are strong and consistent, and this produces less variability in the offspring of your hybrid.
Outbreeding is the process of creating hybrid seeds using two purebred plants. Naturally, the two purebred plants you choose are going to have a different makeup of traits and characteristics, and breeding the two will create a whole new set of characteristics. You will be using the pollen from a male plant to fertilise the seeds of a female plant, and at the point of fertilisation, the seed will take on one characteristic from the male chromosome and one characteristic from the female chromosome. With that seed, you will then plant what will be the hybrid offspring of your very own strain of marijuana.
The trick is going to be obtaining as may seeds as possible to observe all the different characteristic variations that are present in the offspring plants. Then, depending on how many are displaying the desired characteristics, they may be inbred to produce purebred plants of this strain. However, having a large amount of seeds to allow for a large volume of offspring plants gives a greater chance for success than just a few seed selections.
The other important factor in breeding your own strain of marijuana is the environmental factor. As with growing any other plant, cannabis requires a stable environment for optimum growth. Once you decide on your growing method, make sure it remains consistent, because plants that have been stressed begin to produce abnormal flowers. So the first rule is to make sure that your environmental situation is consistent throughout the growth period.
Sexual deviation or sexual reversal are the kinds of things that can happen to plants that have been stressed, often causing female flowers with male parts or the other way around. Don’t confuse these for a wonderful new strain of marijuana, as what has happened is it has become a hermaphrodite plant. Be wary to keep the environment consistent if it is outdoors, or to maintain the light and dark periods impeccably if you are growing indoors.
The process by which you are going to make your own first generation hybrid plant of marijuana involves time and requires patience.
Firstly, you will need to choose a male plant with the characteristics that you would like to have in your gene pool. You are going to grow this plant almost to maturity. All the pollen you are going to need from this male plant will be enough coming from one single branch, so strip away all of the other branches to avoid any accidental pollination.
Once the flowers begin to grow, isolate the male from the female ones, and sacks of pollen will begin to form on your plant. Using your favourite way to collect the pollen from plants, do so. It is recommended that you use a paper sack that you can secure with a string or a wire over the branches and leave it there for a few days to collect as much pollen as possible. You can collect the pollen and store it in the freezer and it will stay good for a few months. Any moisture or high temperatures will surely damage your pollen, so store it in the freezer or somewhere cold and dry if you plan to use it later on.
With your female plant, during the fertilisation process, pistils will begin to grow. Three to four weeks after the first pistils have appeared, there will appear more pistils that are fuzzy and white on the outside. Put the bag that you have used to collect the pollen over the branches of the female plant to allow for fertilisation. Secure it over the branch for a few days to ensure that the pistils fertilise. After this is done, it will only be a few weeks before the seed pods of the female plant open and the seeds are ready. Harvest the seeds, and the plant as well if you wish. You can harvest the flowers and allow them to dry before collecting the seeds.
The seeds are ready for planting right away. The more you plant, the more you will be able to choose from the offspring for the desired characteristics that you are looking for. If you manage to find two that contain all the characteristics that you are looking for, you can pure breed them. Having a lot of plants will also allow you to observe all the different kinds of variations that occur as offspring from these two purebred plants that you have used.
This is just a guide for those who have never tried this method before, but by no means is it a complete guide to plant breeding. So, repeat this process as many times as you can with your purebred male and female plants to produce as many offspring as possible. This will allow you to choose the ones with the best characteristics for future breeding, also.
Want to play God in your marijuana garden and create your very own strain? Read this article to find out how.