The roots of premium cannabis seed genetics
The dawn of legal cannabis production in so many different places around the world has had one unexpected bonus for domestic cannabis growers - the quality of the best cannabis seeds is increasing. There are a few reasons for that, including the increasing use of professional THC lab testing, superior genetic control, and the increased prevalence of carefully selected ‘elite’ mother plants by professional growers.
Increased demand isn't always good for cannabis seed quality
It all sounds like good news for the home growers and smaller commercial growers. It should also be noted that as the quality of the top-tier genetics continues to improve the overall demand for cannabis seeds in general has been increasing. Especially over the last couple of years. That’s thanks to ongoing legalisation and the increased number of grow facilities around the world all of whom need seeds in large quantities.
This, combined with the loss of one major high quality Spanish seed supplier, has left some seed-supply challenges which have been partly filled by some low-quality seed vendors who will buy and sell anything they can get to make a fast buck. At the top end of the market, seed quality improves whilst at the other end it gets worse. It feels like a good moment to take a look at the cannabis seed situation and see what differentiates the quality suppliers from the rest.
Breeders instinct vs professional lab testing during strain development
Some recent high-profile articles from influential magazines such as Forbes have criticised the rapidly expanding USA cannabis industry for failing to take product testing seriously enough. Spot-checks done on cannabis buds and concentrates show a discrepancy between the THC/CBD levels advertised and those found.
Even in countries with multi-$Billion legalised cannabis industries many feel that more quality control/testing needs to be done to bring standards in line with those in other industries. And they’re right.
A decade ago, a ‘breeder’s instinct’ may have been the deciding factor when selecting the parent plants for a new strain. Nowadays, at least for the premium operators, the decision will be at least partly based on a lab report looking at cannabinoid content and terpene profile.
Creating a new cannabis strain, when done correctly, is typically a process that takes a couple of years (often longer) alongside multiple rounds of lab tasting and selection of the best individual specimens for the breeding process.
Some genetic lines are instantly discarded if their taste/potency is clearly below desired levels. Even when the terpenes and cannabinoids do look great, other factors such as poor yield, long bloom time or fussy feeding can spell doom for the less fortunate genetic lines.
Lab testing is important but never the complete answer
Only a novice breeder or cash-strapped amateur would cut corners and not bother testing the cannabinoid/terpene profiles of all the plants in their breeding program.
Having said that, plenty of seed suppliers are perfectly happy to cut as many costs/corners as they can. The result for the grower is reduced certainty from the seeds. Without proper stabilisation of the genetics, you will see a wide divergence in the plants, their potency and effects.
You can see the same lack of consistency if the breeding program contained rogue plants with substandard levels of cannabinoids and insufficient terpene loadings. Lab testing can eliminate such individuals from the breeding program.
Lab testing is a no-brainer for any breeder seeking to produce exceptional results. But it may be surprising to some to find out that a smoke test on the final result is also essential. That’s because some strains can have a powerful but ‘cold’ high if they lack the beneficial effects from plenty of minor cannabinoids and terpenes.
In other words, a professional breeder would probably prefer a 25% THC strain with a generous balance of minor cannabinoids rather than a 30% THC strain without a good supporting cast of other cannabinoids and a tasty terpene palate. Remember there are synthetic THC-only medicines (without any other cannabinoids) but these are a poor substitute for natural grown cannabis.
Plant tissue culture, micropropagation and modern scientific breeding techniques
In the effort to gain small, but eventually significant, advantages in the cannabis breeding process the most professional geneticists use advanced techniques such as plant tissue culture and micropropagation. Such techniques are undeniably expensive and complicated. But they allow new levels of sophistication during the multi-stage process of crafting a cannabis strain and ensuring maximised levels of desirable features such as cannabinoid levels and terpenes.
Plant tissue culture allows genetically identical plants to be grown from small slivers of stem, leaves or even roots of a parent plant in a nutritious gel. This is possible because cannabis has a property known as totipotency. This allows a small piece of plant material to regenerate into an entire plant in the right conditions.
If you need to quickly produce hundreds/thousands of plant copies in sterile (and therefore easily transportable) containers quickly, plant tissue culture is the way to go. There are many other benefits to plant tissue culture when conducting specialist plant breeding. Using plant tissue culture has allowed Dutch Passion to fast-track certain elements of breeding projects as well as improve the quality of the final results. cannabis seeds
Large scale legal growing, selecting elite individuals
Supplying cannabis seeds to partners with legal, licensed grow operations around the world has allowed Dutch Passion access to some unexpected, but highly acceptable, benefits. Many licensed growers will cultivate thousands of plants from seed.
Sometime growers will keep mother plants from the top 1% of their plants. Usually these are the heaviest yielding plants which will be subsequently lab analysed. Of these, only those with the very highest cannabinoid/terpene profiles are selected to be kept as mother plants for future crops. These individuals represent those special 1-in-500 or 1-in-1000 plants, and of course they are ideal genetics for the next generation of breeding projects for grateful and well-connected seed banks.
Those seed suppliers that were involved with the early legal, licensed grow customers are starting to see the fruits of some of their hard work supplying the first-generation legal farmers around the world. The good news is that home growers are perfectly positioned to reap the benefits.
Premium cannabis seed genetics and the science behind them
The dividend from increasingly legal cannabis supply has been a more scientific approach to cannabis seed development from the premium quality seed suppliers.
Access to starting genetics have made a step-change in the right direction thanks to the efforts to identify 1-in-1000 plants with elite combinations of cannabinoids, terpenes, and yields. Use of plant tissue culture and micropropagation have added professional botanical techniques to the armoury of the hi-tech, well-resourced cannabis seed breeder and supplier.
These advances are allowing rare and wonderful advances in cannabis seeds. Some of these have never been seen before, such as the new cannabis strains rich in THCV, CBG & CBDV which have all been recently pioneered/released by Dutch Passion.
There’s lots more to come too thanks to recent advances in premium cannabis seed genetics and the techniques used to create them. The increasingly sophisticated world of cannabis seeds is starting to get very interesting, keep watching this space!