The first attempted tissue culture was done in the late 1800s. Back then, no one could have imagined what would come out of the invention. One century later, tissue culture has gained popularity across most if not all biological facets. Cannabis tissue culture has also made an entry into the picture. What does this hold for the industry and its future? In this article, we will explore what is cannabis tissue culture? and comparisons to traditional propagation methods. What is tissue culture? Let’s get into it.
Tissues culture (TC) is a transformative propagation method that uses an organism’s cell matter to create another of its kind. The material is propagated in a medium that facilitates growth. TC was commercialized in the early 1980s and has taken root in the agricultural industries.
After the legalization of cannabis, scientists are trying to find new methods of propagation or breeding. Until recently, traditional propagation methods like seeds and cuttings were the only methods to breed cannabis. Legal barriers played a critical role in cannabis tissue culture delays.
Traditional Cannabis Propagation Methods
Cuttings and seeds are the major propagation methods for most plants. This is not an exception when it comes to cannabis. The two have dominated. But the success of cannabis tissue culture means that the game can change.
Traditional propagation methods are time-consuming. They’re also prone to the production of an inferior crop. Diseases and pests are common among cannabis plants that come from seeds or cuttings. Seeds can become tedious to plant without machinery. Although it is possible to select cuttings with preferred traits, they are not immune to diseases and pests.
TC has revolutionized other agricultural crops and its entry into the cannabis sector will definitely have an impact. But how does tissue culture work?
How Cannabis Tissue Culture Works
You can use a cell, several cells, or even an organ to undertake TC in cannabis. The parts are then placed in a medium that facilitates growth. It is also possible to control the growth rate as well as patterns of tissue culture cannabis.
You should get the sample you want to work to create clones of the plant. Once extracted, the tissues are sterilized to get rid of any contaminants. After sterilization, the tissue is placed in the propagation medium. The culture is nutrient-rich and contains hormones and sugar mixture. Hormones are essential in control of the development phase of the planting material.
The culture, which is mostly an agar gel, should have the right concentration of the hormones, nutrients, and sugar mixture. The method is very useful in the preservation of plant genetics. The propagation culture can remain in a period of purgatory until you decide to use the sample again. The addition of agar gel facilitates cell multiplication, root development and, growth.
The materials used are tiny, which means if you want to watch the growth of the tissues, you’ll need a microscope. In the first stage, the cells grow leaves and stem. They are transferred to another medium after 50 to 60 days. The culture is prepared to enhance root growth. The final stage is acclimation which is meant to make the plant adapt to open field like environment. After the process, the plants are ready for transplanting to the field.
Advantages of Cannabis Tissue Culture over other Propagation Methods
The primary aim of most farmers is to grow great products. Their secondary goal is to reduce expenses and increase profits. TC is a cost-effective method of propagation because it requires a small space. Farmers don’t have to buy a lot of propagation materials because only a small part of the cannabis plant is required. In fact, a small amount can make enough planting material for acres of marijuana.
Another benefit of tissue culture is its application in the preservation of cannabis genetics. In the recent past, many new cannabis strains have been developed. These new strains may render previous types of cannabis extinct. Cannabis tissue culture can help preserve important strains and traits, like landrace. Tissue culture also makes it easy to produce clones of superior strains of cannabis.
If you do sterilization correctly, it is possible to get rid of all pests and diseases through tissue culture. Although uncommon with TC, your crops are still not 100% immune to destruction from pests, diseases or infection. TC guarantees you a clean crop that is immune and clean from any infestation.
According to Emergent Cannabis Sciences CEO, Jones Hope, tissue culture cannabis has higher yields. Productivity can be associated with plant resistance to pests or diseases. It is also easier to identify highly productivity crops and create similar plants through tissue culture.
Drawbacks to Cannabis Tissue Culture
TC in cannabis is a technology in the early stages, so, there are some informational gaps. A lot of questions still remain unanswered thus making most studies non-conclusive.
Tissue culture propagation is a delicate process that requires a lot of specifications. Unlike traditional propagation methods, TC calls for skills to be able to come up with viable planting material. Some farmers may not have the technical skills, limiting the application of the method.
Cultivators should have specialized premises to facilitate flawless tissue culture propagation. The cost of the medium, as well as the sterilization process, may both be limiting factors to the method.
The process of tissue culture is long. It takes more than a month for the whole process. On the other hand, after 2 weeks, cannabis cuttings can be ready for planting after a week or two.
Tissue culture is the new technology in cannabis propagation. Though it has taken root in large scale cultivation of marijuana, it is possible for small scale farmers to use it. All you need as a small scale cultivator is a do-it-at-home kit and you are good to go. With the basic knowledge of cannabis farming, you can hack tissue culture with the kit.
The tissue culture method will preserve cannabis strains with desirable characteristics, and will also play an important role in developing new strains. You can keep all your genetics on a single shelf, unlike mother plants which may need a lot of space. There’s a high demand for efficient planting material and more efficient processes. Tissue culture as a breeding method shows a lot of promise.
Stephen Ngunya is cannabis article writer.