When setting up a cannabis growing operation, one crucial element is the type of seeds you’ll use. There are three primary types: regular, feminized, and auto-flowering. Each seed type has pros and cons, but many growers prefer auto-flowering cannabis for several reasons. If you’re interested in growing your own crops, you need to know what to expect and how to maximize your yield.
So, with that in mind, let’s discuss everything you need to know about how to breed auto-flowering cannabis.
A Brief History of the Auto-flowering Cannabis Plant
As the name suggests, this type of cannabis flowers by itself with little interference from growers. This adaptation is rooted in the plant’s history and the areas where it grew and thrived. Typically, cannabis has a relatively long gestation period before flowering and dropping seeds. This period is longer because the plant originated in the Himalayas, where summers were hot, long, and had extended sunny days.
As cannabis spread worldwide, one strain broke off from the pack and developed its auto-flowering tendencies. This strain is called cannabis ruderalis, which means “roadside.” Because the plant flowers so quickly, it’s well-suited for climates with shorter summers and fewer sunny days. So, ruderalis spread across Europe, Russia, America, and Canada.
Unfortunately, cannabis ruderalis doesn’t contain much THC. After all, this compound requires time to develop, and auto-flowering plants move too quickly for THC to be present. However, modern strains do have THC, all thanks to the ingenuity and perseverance of cannabis enthusiasts in the 70s and 80s.
These days, while auto-flowering plants contain less THC than other seed types, they’re still helpful for cannabis production. As long as you plan accordingly for the lack of THC, you can make high-quality products and buds for your customers. We’ll discuss some of the methods for harvesting auto-flowering plants later on.
Pros and Cons of Auto-flowering Plants
You can probably imagine some of the potent advantages of growing and harvesting auto-flowering seeds. However, let’s break down the various benefits and downsides they bring.
- Pro: Faster Harvest Time – On average, auto-flowering cannabis can bloom within six to 13 weeks. Most Indica and Sativa strains start flowering at about eight or nine weeks, but some strains begin much later. Realistically, you can harvest more crops in the same period than with standard cannabis plants.
- Con: Smaller Plants – Smaller plants, leaves, and flowers mean smaller buds. So, even though you’re cutting your time down, you need to grow more auto-flowers to compensate for the lack of useable buds. However, since these plants are smaller, you can pack them more densely than Sativa or Indica. Also, if you have a stealth operation, it’s easier to hide small auto-flowers, so this feature is both a plus and a minus.
- Pro: No Need for a Flowering Room – When growing regular cannabis, you need to move your plants into a different room once they start flowering. This way, you can begin a new crop in your grow room. However, auto-flowering plants don’t need different lights or schedules. So, you can grow all your plants in the same room and rotate them as necessary after harvesting.
- Con: No Cloning – One way growers ensure consistency between crops is to clone their plants instead of buying a new batch of seeds every time. Unfortunately, auto-flowering seeds work so quickly that cloning is not an option. So, you have to either fertilize some of your plants to get new seeds or buy from a seed bank for each crop.
How to Breed Auto-flowers in Your Operation
Now that you know what to expect when growing and harvesting auto-flowering cannabis, let’s dive into the how of your operation. Fortunately, growing and breeding auto-flowers is about the same as any other type of cannabis. However, there are a few factors to pay attention to before starting.
Step One: Buy Auto-flowering Seeds
There are over 200 unique auto-flowering strains, each with slightly different needs. For example, some strains may flower in less time, while others might need more light in a single day. So, when choosing your seeds, be sure to work with a high-quality seed bank that can provide a list of unique details. This way, you can be sure to provide the best environment, so your cannabis thrives.
Also, since you can’t clone your auto-flowers, you want to develop a long-term relationship with your supplier. You may also want to try different strains to see what works best for your operation. Overall, seed banks are essential for auto-flowering cannabis, so do your homework.
Step Two: Create the Ideal Environment for Auto-flowering Seeds
You don’t need as much space or lighting for auto-flowering plants. Unlike Sativa and Indica, these seeds don’t need much room to spread their leaves and roots. So, you can either use individual planters or a massive grow box.
Typically, auto-flowers thrive in areas with long stretches of sunlight because they flower before the season changes and winter arrives. A typical lighting schedule is 20 hours on and four hours off. However, individual strains may need to tweak those numbers a little.
Step Three: Identify Your Sexes and Remove the Males
When breeding auto-flowers, you will produce regular seeds with a 50/50 chance of being male or female. If you’re an advanced grower, you could stress your plants so they become feminized. However, since this process is a bit complicated, we’ll only discuss what it’s like to grow regular seeds. Also, buying regular seeds from a bank is much cheaper, so you can save on your upfront costs.
Auto-flowering males generally show their reproductive parts at about five weeks. For females, it’s six weeks. Look for small balls at the base of branches, as well as thicker, sturdier stalks. Since males don’t produce buds, they have fewer leaves. Be sure to remove all males before they start dropping pollen to prevent accidental fertilization. One male can fertilize an entire crop of females, so you have to be diligent.
Optional: Choose Males and Females for Crossbreeding
If you’re buying stable seeds from a supplier, you should be able to crossbreed them to make your own seeds. Typically, you just pick a male and a female and then back cross the child plant with one of the parents. If necessary, you might have to backcross your plants a few times to ensure stability and consistency.
As a rule, it’s much harder to breed auto-flowering plants from regular Sativa and Indica strains. While it’s technically possible, the process takes a long time and requires many generations to ensure stability. We only recommend this option if you have a well-designed breeding operation.
Step Four: Harvest Your Plants
Once you see your first harvest, you can adjust your crops accordingly to determine if you have to plant more seeds. Since you’ll automatically lose half of your crop to males, you must also calculate how much THC you’ll wind up with each time. From there, you can determine how many to plant for the next crop.
Get Your Auto-flowering Seeds From Us!
Auto-flowering cannabis is easy to grow and relatively easy to breed. However, you need to make sure to buy high-quality seeds and here at Sunwest Genetics, we have just that without the high costs!