One of the best things about cannabis growth and cultivation is the ability to crossbreed plants. However, if you’re new to the world of hybridization, you may not know how to make it happen. Fortunately, we’re here to help with this handy guide. So strap on your gloves and get your science equipment ready – let’s start crossbreeding!
Why Crossbreed Cannabis Strains?
There are two primary reasons to crossbreed marijuana. First, this process allows you to make cannabis strains that thrive in your local environment. For example, maybe you don’t get as much sunlight as other regions, or perhaps you don’t have the correct humidity levels. By crossbreeding, you could cultivate cannabis that doesn’t need so much sun or moisture, allowing you to save time and money with each crop.
The other reason to crossbreed cannabis is to make varieties that are more enjoyable for users. As you work with your crops, you can create strains that might become super popular, allowing you to generate demand and make more money.
Dioecious vs. Monoecious Plants
If you look at all the plants and vegetables in the grocery store, you’ll notice that all of them are practically identical. Tomatoes, bananas, broccoli – each piece looks the same as everything else. This happens because each of these plants is monoecious, meaning they have both male and female parts and can self-fertilize.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is dioecious. So, male plants must fertilize females for the species to breed and continue. As you might imagine, this breeding can lead to some complicated genetics. Just as two parents could have drastically different children, cannabis plants can breed drastically different strains.
Unfortunately, this means crossbreeding is not as simple as it is with other plants. Even if you find a male and a female with desirable traits, their seeds can carry a wide array of genetic material, so few seeds will be identical. In some cases, breeders may have to cycle through over 100 generations to get a stable strain that will reproduce the same results with each crop.
Overall, because of cannabis’ dioecious makeup, crossbreeding can be a lengthy and costly process. However, if you can stick it out to the end, you can reap immense benefits from all that work.
Dominant vs. Recessive Traits
If you’re familiar with genetics, you should know the difference between dominant and recessive genes. Dominant ones are more likely to appear in future generations, while recessive genes may take a while. When selecting cannabis plants for crossbreeding, those that flower early have dominant genes, while literal late bloomers are recessive. So, you need to consider that when picking your male and female plants. Realistically, you might want to select a few dominant and recessive versions for different crossbreeding purposes.
Back Crossing Your Cannabis Plants
As we mentioned, crossbreeding cannabis isn’t as simple as finding two plants you like and getting them to produce seeds. Each batch will be different than the last, so it’s pretty hard to ensure consistency across generations. To do that, you have to backcross your plants.
Backcrossing is another word for inbreeding. Basically, you take seeds from plants with traits you like and breed them with genetically similar plants (typically a parent). By doing this over and over again, you can breed out undesirable traits and create a stable strain that will be the same with every new generation.
Identifying Suitable Male Plants
Typically, crossbreeding starts by selecting the best male plants to pollinate your females. There are a few traits to pay attention to, such as:
- Hollow Stems – As a rule, males with hollow stems have more THC and will pass that down to their offspring. By comparison, if you’re looking to breed cannabis for CBD production, you may want thicker stems.
- Strength – When looking at males, you must ensure they can withstand the weight of large buds and flowers. If you put a little pressure on the stalk and it bends, you shouldn’t waste time growing it any further.
- Scent – Males with strong odors have more dominant traits and will help yield more resin in their offspring. Since resin gives cannabis its stickiness, you want plants with as much resin as possible.
- Pollen Production – If you’re trying to get a maximum crop yield, you want males that generate a lot of pollen. Not only will these plants make it easy to collect and pollinate females, but they’ll help grow bigger and better offspring.
- Mold Resistance – Cannabis is easily susceptible to mold and pests. Because you don’t want to risk future crops, look for males that don’t develop mold easily.
Although crossbreeding is somewhat messy and complicated, you still want to maintain complete control over the entire process. Pollen collection is crucial because it ensures you only pollinate the females with your desired males. Fortunately, male plants are eager to drop pollen, so it’s not hard to get a lot of it. The challenge is with accidental pollination. Never keep males with females, and always avoid using fans or vents when plants start dropping pollen.
Fertilizing Female Plants
As with pollen collection, you need to make sure you don’t accidentally pollinate the wrong plants. Until you’ve created a stable crossbreed, you must pollinate females individually in secured rooms. Make sure to label each plant, so you know exactly which ones you’ve crossed. Otherwise, it’s easy to get confused, meaning you’ll have to start over from scratch.
Another point to remember is that you must deactivate the pollen after fertilization. To do this, simply spray your female with water about three hours after fertilization. This process helps ensure that no lingering pollen will get blown onto other females once you return the plant to your main grow room.
Tips and Tricks for Crossbreeding Cannabis
If you’re new to this system, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some top tips to help you get the most out of your plants.
- Stay Organized – Be sure to label each of your plants and record every instance of pollination and fertilization. Realistically, you’ll want to breed multiple plants simultaneously to speed up the process.
- Keep Crossbreeding Plants Away From Others – Unless you’re solely focused on crossbreeding, you likely have other cannabis seeds to plant, germinate, and harvest. Keep these plants in a separate grow room so you can cultivate them without worrying about accidental pollination or fertilization.
- Cull Males Early – The longer males have to grow, the faster they’ll drop pollen. Start paying attention to your males as soon as they start flowering and cull any plants with undesirable traits.
- Have Patience – Crossbreeding takes time and lots of effort to do correctly. If you’re not prepared for a long-term approach, it’s easy to get frustrated and give up, leaving you with nothing.
Crossbreeding is much easier when you’re able to use high-quality seeds. We offer a wide selection of different strains to help you breed the strains you want!