Growers are now switching to cultivating autoflowering cannabis seeds and they are often get asked, “What are autoflowering seeds?” The answer will be quite tricky but we shall have a brief and straight to the point discussion about the matter.
WHAT DOES AUTOFLOWERING MEAN?
Plants go through different stages and they generally go through four stages in their; seeds, seedling, vegetative and flowering stage. Seeds are what you plant in the soil and they are literally offsprings of older plants that have bred through pollination. Pollination is the process where the pollen of a male plant gets in contact with the female plant organ in a bud resulting in a seed.
Regular marijuana strains go to the flowering stage from the vegetative stage by counting the number of days that they were planted and once it happens, the grower must adjust the amount of light that his flowers are exposed to. This amount of light is measured in light cycles or the number of hours the plants are exposed to light every 24 hours.
Regular cannabis needs a reduction of the light cycle from 18 hours a day to 12 hours a day in order to fully develop into a mature plant in its flowering stage. In this stage, male flowers produce pollen while the female produce buds that become flowers and produce seeds when pollinated. It is the unpollinated buds that are being harvested for their THC or CBD content.
Autoflowering seeds do not need this change of lighting and they will automatically proceed from the vegetative state to the flowering stage automatically, hence the name.
AUTOFLOWERING VS REGULAR STRAINS
HARVEST CYCLE:Auto-flowering strains grow faster than regular strains. This is due to the Ruderalis genes that are on auto-flowering plants. Some varieties are even reported to be ready for harvest in seven weeks. This could mean a few harvests in one season of planting regular plants. This is also an advantage for outdoor growers in cold climates where the summer days are short and cold that only last about two months, which is just enough time between the seed stage to the flowering stage.
Regular plants do have fast-growing varieties too so we cannot really say that auto-flowering strains are better in this department.
YIELD:Auto-flowering plants which are genetically related to Ruderalis family are smaller than the other Sativa or Indica dominant varieties. This is an advantage for the auto-flowering plants since smaller plants mean that you could have more plant in your limited indoor or greenhouse growing space. Being short also makes stealth growing possible where a grower may try and grow a single plant out of sight of the law where marijuana is illegal.
But the smaller size of auto-flowering marijuana plants could be a disadvantage too. Smaller plants yield fewer buds too as there is only enough space on each plant for buds to grow. So in this comparison, there may be a tie between the two since smaller yields per plant could be made up for by having more plants in your growing area.
OPERATIONAL COST: Regular marijuana plants’ maturing from the vegetative state to the flowering stage is triggered by lowering the light cycle from 18 hours to 12 hours. But auto-flowering plants need the same 18-hour light cycles in their flowering stage. This means that lights should run longer on indoor spaces even during the flowering stage, thus pushing the electricity consumption in this stage. The regular strains clearly have an advantage here.
POTENCY: Regular marijuana strains have different THC and CBD potencies and it is known that some contain as much as 21 percent of either ingredient. But since the auto-flowering marijuana plants are derived from the Ruderalis family of plants, they naturally contain lesser THC than the Sativa or Indica varieties even after breeding that made hybrids between the Ruderalis and other marijuana plants possible. Regular strains easily win this comparison unless they breed a high THC breed of auto-flowering marijuana strains.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Below is some information that you need to know in order to grow autoflowering seeds successfully.
SOIL AND POTS
In the wild, auto-flowering plants live light airy soil of Eastern Europe and Russia that has better ventilation yet drains quicker than clay soil and make it retain less water and nutrients. Auto-flowering marijuana plants do not thrive well on clay soil. That is why adding dry amendments or additives or simply known as fertilizers is one of the first things you must do. You have to prepare your plants by making sure that its soil is rich in Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus, by adding different proven dry amendments.
Auto-flowering plants are better adapted to the light airy soil, so, it is best practice to have less fertilizer. Sandy soil or light soil drains faster than clay soil and too much fertilizer on you auto-flowering plant will definitely hurt it. In terms of nutrients in auto-flowering plants, less is more.
Your soil pH levels should be neutral and do not allow it to become acidic or alkaline. A pH level ranging from 6.0-7.0 is adequate for a soil system or a hydroponic system of planting. Acidic or alkaline soil will hinder nutrient absorption of the plants.
Pots play a big part too. Understanding the soil requirement of auto-flowering plants will make us understand that they also need better water drainage and they don’t thrive well in wet soil. Because of this, you must ensure that you choose a post that is medium-sized, about 5-7 gallons that have good drainage for draining water and soil aeration.
Having a pot that is of decent size also meant that you should choose a pot where your auto-flowering cannabis will remain in its entire lifetime. Transplanting causes shock which the auto-flowering cannabis seedling may not tolerate very well. It is best to plant the seedlings or let seeds germinate in their final pots so that transplanting will no longer be a necessity.
Microorganisms in the soil also play a vital role in the development of your crops. Certain types of fungi have a symbiotic relationship with the plants. The fungi Mycorrhiza, for example, penetrate the feet of the plants and breaks down the compounds containing phosphorus in order to be easily absorbed by the plant. Mycorrhiza in turn benefit from the plant in a symbiotic relationship as the plant in turn supply mycorrhiza with amino acids and sugars.
For outdoor growers, they may add some predatory nematodes on their plants that feed on parasitic nematodes. Nematodes are roundworms that naturally thrive in the soil.
Since autoflowering plants thrive in the cooler regions that still receive plenty of sunlight, your autoflower plant needs a pleasant 27 degrees Celcius in order to be healthy enough to give you hefty yield. A degree lower or higher will not hurt but extreme temperatures must be avoided especially by outdoor growers.
NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING
For auto-flowering cannabis plants, it is best to keep the lighting in an 18-hour cycle throughout their lifetimes. Some growers tried lighting it for 24 hours every day which produced good yields but the quality of those produced in 18-hour cycles are better.
Full-spectrum LED lights work best in any type of auto-flower marijuana plant. Higher lumens mean better yield for your crop too. If LED is too expensive for you, CFL or fluorescent lighting is a cheaper option.
Sunlight is still the best light for your auto-flower plants. Even if you live in an area with only 12 hours of sunlight on average, it is still more powerful lighting than any artificial lighting system that growers could produce and will still give you better yields. So, growing outdoors is a viable option for your plants especially if you are able to environmentally protect your plants in a greenhouse.
Auto-flower plants thrive in specific light spectrums. During their vegetative state, your plants must receive cooler light and in the flowering period, they must receive warmer lights. This is because auto-flower seeds germinate during spring and flower during summer and you could mimic this natural phenomenon in your indoor lights using LED lights with different color temperatures. Some CFL lights may also have this option to choose different colored lights.
Wrong lighting placement may also make your plant foxtail or have most of their buds grow in one place instead of being distributed along with the nodes. This is not necessarily bad but too much lighting that reaches the top of the plant, for example, may trigger your cannabis plant to foxtail which may lead to stem breakage thus laying waste to your buds.
Plant training is making your plant adapt to the stress that is artificially put into it by the grower in order to positively affect its growing behavior. Different kind of plants may need different kinds of training. One such training is the Low-Stress Method or LST. This method requires bending the stems of the plant in order to bend so that light gets distributed evenly across the plant especially those leaves on the lower part.
Topping is also a technique that means cutting the main stem in order for the plant to grow from more than one cola or big stem rather than one. FIMing is another method like topping but it only requires a slight cut on the top of the plant without cutting it entirely just like in topping. Marijuana plants normally grow like a Christmas tree but topping and FIMing will make it bushier with leaves more scattered and ready to absorb more light. It is important to note that training could only be done on healthy plants as sick plants may die due to the stress of the training procedure.
This is our most comprehensive yet concise answer to the question, “What are autoflowering seeds?” Make the most out of your crops by applying the information contained in this article in conjunction with more research and advice from fellow growers.