If you’ve thought about growing your own cannabis, then chances are you’ve considered breeding your own strain of plants at least once. Think about it for a moment… how great would it be to have a strain that was truly perfect for you? One that gave you all the effects you desired, whether it be for medical or personal use; it would give you the perfect experience – a blend of your favorite strains. While it may be difficult, it is definitely not impossible – this is how we have come out with the numerous amount of hybrid strains that fill the market today.
Some of the most popular strains are hybrids – Purple Haze, Sweet Tooth, Girl Scout Cookies, White Rhino and even Granddaddy Purple are all strains that were created by some of the top breeders in the country. They have spent countless hours searching for the right strains to combine, going through the entire breeding process over and over again to narrow down the traits that are most desired and repeating the process until the new strain becomes relatively uniform – or at least each phenotype of the strain should be.
Even though you may not come out with the next Cannabis Cup winner, you can still learn the basic process of breeding cannabis plants in order to create a strain that will benefit you the most. However, the information here is only meant to give you a general understanding of how creating a new strain happens and give you an idea of what you need to understand to breed an entirely new strain of plant – there are many individuals out there much more qualified than myself to teach you about cannabis breeding; but for those who are interested, here is your starting point.
Choosing Which Strains to Start With
One of the most important parts is where to start – which strains will you choose to breed? Choosing two of your favorites would, of course, be a good starting point – but there is more to consider than just which strains to cross. When picking the strains, consider what effects you want to pass from one strain to another – do you want a heavier, indica-like sedating effect or more of a wake-and-bake sativa? Are you looking for something that will stimulate your mind or something that will stimulate your appetite?
Once you have decided the effects you are looking for, you can settle on a couple of strains – using ones that are well-established and come out with nearly the same effects every time. This can be difficult – especially if you are starting with a strain that is already a hybrid as there may be multiple phenotypes (perhaps the same strain has both an indica and sativa dominant phenotype, for example).
Even after you choose a strain, you will still want to choose the best plants available to actually start breeding with; this will ensure that you have the best chances at coming out with a strain that offers your desired effects.
Breeding for Specific Traits and How the Genetics Work
As mentioned above, you will want to breed your new strain for specific traits – but in order to do that you have to have a basic understanding of genetics and how they work. Chances are, you learned about Mendel and his pea pods in one of your high school science classes (I remember a very enthusiastic biology teacher my freshman year trying desperately to get us to understand this concept). Basically, there are two different types of genes – dominant and recessive.
Dominant genes are exactly that – they are dominant. If a dominant gene is mixed with a recessive gene, it will always come out on top. However, in the case that both parents carry a recessive gene there is a chance that one of the offspring will display that recessive gene. The example used in my biology class was two parents with brown eyes, who carry the recessive gene for blue eyes could have a baby with blue eyes – even though the brown eye gene is the dominant one.
The same concept applies to cannabis plants – and it applies to everything from the effects of the plant when consumed to the color the plant turns out to be. If you can figure out which traits are dominant in the plants you are breeding you have a better chance of predicting what your first hybrid strain will be like. These differences in genetics is how we come up with different phenotypes of the same strain – some may carry on dominant traits and others recessive – but if they both provide a unique result you were hoping for, each can be bred further to enhance these traits.
Creating Your Own Hybrid Strain
In order to breed your own strain of cannabis, you will need both a male plant of one strain and a female plant of another. While many plants are both male and female in one, cannabis plants require a male plant to pollinate the female for it to breed.
Once you have grown your first round of seeds for each strain you should pick the plants that have the majority of the traits you are looking for. Remember, after years of being bred in the shadows and without the aid of genetic testing, cannabis seeds will generally produce a slightly different plant every time – especially when you are starting with a strain that is already a hybrid. The most uniform strains are those that have been bred for 10-20 years or more.
Now comes time for you to actually start working on creating your new strain – you will want to bring your male cannabis plant nearly all the way to maturity before taking pollen from it to pollinate the female plants. Prior to maturity, the plant will not be able to produce adequate pollen – so timing is everything – and it truly requires a green thumb like no other.
You will need to plant your female plants at the right time too – they should be between two and four weeks old when they are pollinated. This is right before the female plants go into “seeding mode” and, once pollinated, the plant will produce brand new seeds – the very first set of seeds you will grow your own personal hybrid strain from. The seeds will fall out of the plant or be sifted out during the harvesting period.
Once you get that first set of seeds, attempt to grow all of them (or at least as many as you have room for). This is the first true test to tell you how things went when it comes to your brand new strain – and it is likely where you will first notice a plethora of phenotypes for you to choose from. You will want to keep the seeds from your hybrid in order to breed it again with one of the strains you chose initially (in order to make certain attributes more refined).
It will take multiple generations of one single phenotype in order for a plant to be considered a true hybrid – but if you stick to it and stay consistent in the attributes you are hoping for it will help you to create your own true hybrid over time. Cannabis genetics are a tricky thing, finding a strain that offers everything you’re looking for is also tricky – but the world of possibility is wide open with this one, and if more people took the time to try and grow their own cannabis, they may also work to create a strain that will offer them the most relief.
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Thanks for the info.
I’m curious as to how you choose a male plant for the breeding program?
I get that you would choose a plant which has vigarous growth, is resistant to pests, mould and strong feeds but in the end how do you know that it carries the genes required for the desired terps, taste and high?
Female is easy as you can obviously smoke test to see if the desirable effects are present but with a male how do you truly know?
The only thing I can think of is that you pollinate numerous cuts of the same female phenotype with various different male phenotypes of a single selected genotype and then grow out all the offspring to find the desired traits of both genotypes in a single phenotype.
That leads to the next question once you find the winning offspring which is likely female is it standard practice to pollinate her by her own father?