Hey-hey-hey everyone out there in SKUNK Land; Rev here, with another installment of my Breeders’ Corner series here at SKUNKDigital. Basically, I will share some of my insights with you about breeding cannabis—it’s a subtle art to be sure—and there are aspects of breeding you may not be aware of (yet), but once you are aware you cannot “un-see” it. This is the road to becoming a true connoisseur of cannabis, and it is like being a connoisseur of anything else; wine, or whatever. Personally, I have a lot of “pedestrian” tastes in various things, LoL, but there are some things that I am highly capable of applying discerning skills to … like vodka, milk, coffee, and cannabis, to name several. Let me give you some things to roll over in your melon regarding this subject matter—and away we go…
Let’s Start with the Seed
First off, let me give you a big fat fact that many of you likely don’t know about, regarding seeds and breeding; as it relates to long term viability. Cannabis (or anything else) seeds that are bred using pure organic/all-natural methodology growing practices will remain viable MUCH longer than seeds bred using synthetic growing methods; it’s not even close. However, that’s not the only thing I want to share regarding this, because there is another aspect to viable seeds that is more subtle, I have noticed over the years breeding. Read on, my green friends.
When you have had some seeds in storage for quite some time, like anything else in nature that is alive, the strongest survive. So, if you are breaking out some Acapulco Gold or whatever, from seeds you have had in storage for 5 or 10 years, or more, and out of 20 seeds, you germinate you get only 4 sprouts, well… You can be really certain in my experience that these 4 plants will be beasts of their kind (genotype). That is, of course, assuming that the lower germination rates are due to genetics and not your germinating environment. Alrightythen, let’s move on.
Environment vs. Genetics Regarding Selection
You cannot be a good breeder unless you are a primo grower—period. Small variables in your growing environment can make big differences as to how a plant will look. Closer proximity to a vent or fan can cause plants to go through water faster than others, causing potential issues that are purely environmental and not genetic.
Sometimes, individual plants can have the genetic ability to grow much faster, and hence, use a lot more water and food; NEED more water and food, or they will appear like “weak” plants to the unskilled observer. If you go to transplant one of your weaker looking plants, and you notice that this particular plant also has a much larger root mass than its sibling plants, then you very likely have one of these types of plants. I call these kinds of plants—”Hog Phenotype”—plants, and these are normally (like 75% of the time) also very large yielding individuals—far outweighing their siblings in final yield per plant. You definitely don’t want to miss out on these plants, but you will unless you are aware of this.
Breeding Without Math
Reading about breeding, in my opinion, is far more complicated of an approach than actually diving in and doing it. It’s nice to know your numbers and being aware of them gives you better insight as to what you may see in recombinations (hybrids); thereby allowing you to estimate your odds closer to your target expression(s). But let’s forget all about that stuff and let me give you a much simpler approach that is pure excellence and elegance.
Let’s take one thing as an example (an expression) that you want to “breed into” your hybrid so that all or most of the offspring from these hybrids will also show this expression. Let’s take purple colorations. A few things you should know about the purple coloration expressions in cannabis include the fact that the coloration falls into two basic areas: purple leaves and purple calyxes. You will most likely be wanting the purple calyxes’ expression most of all because that one makes for purple buds … and … that background purple flavoring that is always a bit grape-like and wonderful.
Another fact about the purple expression is that very often when you have some purple phenotypes in your offspring generation, they will also be the lesser (often least) potent individuals, so it’s important to be able to discern when this is the case. If you have the purple expression with super potency, then you absolutely want that expression, and it will almost always stay true regarding purple potency.
Here are your basic breeding guidelines for the simple methodology…
- Be good at cloning—this allows you to harvest and sample plants so you can select the keepers from your clones to continue your work.
- Obviously, you must be an excellent grower highly familiar with growing cannabis if you expect to be able to breed with excellence.
- Simply breed with only plants that show the things you want to have and don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t worry too much about your males, just make sure they are healthy and vigorous; however, as in the purple expression example above, males will also show purple colorations; but it is harder to gauge things like resin production, etc. from males. Keep selecting ONLY the females you REALLY love all the way down the line and by f4 (the 4th time you inbreed them) or so you will have likely locked them down.
- Being able to grow a lot of plants is for sure helpful in many ways, however, you can just get more numbers by growing your hybrids in “waves” of however many plants you are capable of growing well at once. Takes a bit longer sometimes but still works top notch. Also, you need to be highly observant of your offspring, and closely watching 20 plants compared to 100 plants is a huge difference in time spent; attention to detail rises with fewer plants at once.
- Start out with solid genetics—full stop!
- Be a tad harsh and kill-kill-kill all that are not worthy—however, make sure you pay attention to the variables like the Hog Phenotype I mentioned above.
Shaman Style Methodology
In the Native American cultures, to become a Shaman entails something like being sent out into the wilderness alone for 10 years without contact with anything but nature—boom! If you come back alive and well, I can see where huge wisdom of nature would be borne here, duh.
Breeding is a lot like becoming a Shaman, as you continue doing it you become more and more familiar with what you are seeing; you know what you are looking at, much like a geologist would look at a mountain range a lot differently than you or I would, assuming we are not geologists, heh heh. They would see so much more, because they know what they are looking at, and looking for, you dig?
Well, my green breeding friends, I hope I have bestowed some helpful pearls of knowledge into your domes in this article. Breeding has nothing to do with hype, it has to do with hands-on experience and the powers of observation. I used to use notepads (for over 2 decades) to keep details about plants on, but over the years I have just developed shortcodes to tell me things I have seen on my plants while I am checking them out as potential breeders. I use “Popsicle Sticks” as my plant markers, and I use a fine-point Sharpie to write the codes on the sticks themselves.
Right Now, with Rev
As an example of some of the things I have shared in this article, I will tell you a bit about what I am doing now. Currently, I am working my Cherry Thai line, this is an f1 hybrid of my F3 Cherry Bomb out of Hawaii just chalked full of old school Hawaiian genetics, and two different Thai lines. The real dealJuicyfruit Thai I acquired about 15 years ago from some Holland breeder’s stock, it was all the way flavored and smelled like Juicyfruit Gum with great yields and wicked potency. The other Thai female I used was my own old-world Thai I got from Viet Nam about 30 years ago, that I called “Bat Dam Bang” Thai. A serious true Thai line with psycho strong potency and sharp smells and flavors.
In this example of one of my hybrids, I used a male Cherry Bomb and two different Thai females. I always like to try and use at least two different male individuals when pollinating, but that’s not always possible.
What I am targeting here as I work this hybrid is that badass Juicyfruit Gum terpene expression crossing over with the Cherry Bomb, which has a real Cream Soda/Vanilla/Cherry tendency for terpenes. So, while carrying the great yields, the high potency, and vigor/heartiness, I want to end up with a real Tropical Fruity Cherry profile to the terpenes, while retaining that sharper Thai-side resulting in a serious Sweet & Sour type of goodness; and of course, while retaining that sky-high Thai high type—Cheers Earthlings.
I'm The Rev, and I have been with SKUNK for about a decade now. I hail from Southern California, spent mucho time in Northern California, and now reside in Southern Oregon; always coastal. I am an all natural style cannabis grower and I have written a couple books on the subject - check out True Living Organics 2nd Edition on Amazon - I have been growing for over 45 years, and I have been breeding cannabis for over 30 years. Check out kingdomorganicseeds.com to see some exotic selections. Growing connoisseur cannabis is what I teach mostly, growing it in living soil without using liquid organic nutrients to feed the plant. I am also a highly skilled synthetics grower, hydroponics, aeroponics, DWC/SWC/NFT, Ebb and Flow, and soilless, but I cringe when smoking synthetic grown herbs, so for the last 15 years or so I preach the artisan style of all natural growing, specializing in container growing. Cheers and welcome aboard.