I consult with a number of growers and seed developers. I am involved with several genetic projects that are seed or “traditionally” based, but have always had a special interest in plant tissue culture.
For those of you not familiar with plant tissue culture, it is similar, but much easier than old “Dolly”, the sheep who was cloned decades ago. Most of the orchids and many ferns are grown in tissue culture and it is awesome.
It is a very long story, but here is an attempt to summarize the various methods for plant propagation.
MOTHERS AND CLONES
Most growers, MOST of the time get “cuttings” or clones from a mother plant which HOPEFULLY has known genetics. By known genetics, I mean knowing the cannabinoid profile and terpene profile of the mother. Many folks get clones, grow them into moms and then take cuttings. Some just buy clones and grow them, whether indoors or outdoors.
The advantage of using QUALITY clones is that you should be certain of the plant outcome – within certain ranges. The same plant grown in a different location will be different. Indoors, greenhouses, outdoors are all variables. The grower makes a big difference as well as how the plants are cared for, watered and fed. I have seen clones that come from beautiful moms but look awful. I have seen clones taken from “sickly” plants and grow into great plants just with quality care. So, there are plenty of variables, but at least you have known genetics. (assuming you were given the correct clone to begin with)
One drawbacks with clones is that they are not THAT easy to ship. Another practical nightmare is that MANY clones from a number of growers are delivered in pretty poor shape. The early “formative” weeks are critical to every plant and animal.
So, the upside is that the genetics CAN be identical and the plants grown will be reliable.
The downside is that clones are often a practical pain in the neck for many reasons, some are listed above.
GROWING FROM SEEDS
The biggest issue with growing from seeds is getting predictable seeds. If it is a casual grow, it is not so critical. However, when growing plants that will be tested, extracted and made into dosed extracts, it is critical to have consistency. If you can’t grow consistent plants, you just cannot make consistent medicine.
So, when someone elects to grow rich CBD plants from seeds, there are a couple of issues you don’t have with clones.
One half of the plants will be male. If you don’t know how to identify them or how to use them, you run the risk of seeding your crop leaving you with tons of seeds of VARYING genetics and little flower.
Of the 50% that are female, there will be several different versions or chemovars among those 5 female seeds. You need to either test the plants early (you can test leaves any time after the plants are 6-7 nodes big; the leaf sample will tell you the ratio of cannabinoids), or grow them out and see what you have. Not a terrible thing, but not great if you need to make the same stuff every time.
There are potentially feminised seeds out there that are IN THEORY 100% identical, but we have just not been able to document this. There are some seeds from http://cbdcrew.com that actually MIGHT solve this issue.
So, with seeds you get great genetics, but generally not PREDICTABLE genetics and you need to cull through many plants. Most people just can’t afford to do this on many levels.
I opened this article talking about tissue culture. With tissue culture, you take a piece of the living plant and turn that into hundreds or millions of little “plantlets” that will grow into great plants. The processing used with tissue culture, sterilizes the plant, removing any viruses, fungi or bacteria, leading to very clean and healthy plants – and as many of them that you want.
A mason jar full of plantlets can be formed back into many hundreds of beautiful and healthy plants.
The advantages are clear, but the technology is for sure a bit of a hassle. In the end, I believe it is worth it and now I am finally getting to the point of this article…….which is:
DO WE WANT TO CONTINUE TO BROADEN OR NARROW THE GENETIC CANNABIS POOL?
For example, if we choose to develop 100% reproducible seeds, by definition, we are taking the plant genetics from thousands and thousands of years of crossing, and narrowing it down to 1 phenotype. Again, a phenotype or chemovar is a specific cannabis plant with a specific cannabinoid profile and terpene profile – unique genetics.
So, in this case of crossing and backcrossing and limiting and limiting more the genetic pool where the seeds are made, you can ultimately get a specific and reproducible chemovar. It is a huge challenge to accomplish this and I am really beginning to wonder whether it is the correct thing to do for cannabis medicine. How many of the chemovars or strains that were eliminated for whatever reasons MIGHT have turned out to be great medicine. We are currently not equipped to handle all of the chemovars, but do we really want to abandon them? Over time, we will be able to use all of these chemovars to make unique chemovar based extracts. Perhaps a single chemovar found tomorrow, and saved by tissue culture, will be one of several high CBD ratio strains effective for seizures or pain or neuropathic pain. We can then “de-frost” some of the chemovars in culture, grow them out, extract them and give them to patients. Who would not want as many options as possible when dealing with very serious illness? How can we currently know what will work best for what and for whom.
I visited a tissue culture farm this past week. There were no cannabis plants there, but there should could/should be. Every plant is from tissue culture and everyone looks identical and VERY healthy. This is how our medicine should be grown.
Let’s all be sleuth’s out there and find great new chemovars that are good producers and then “fix them in time”, able to get them back any time you want with a couple of weeks notice.
Perhaps in a strange way, making seeds, although still CRITICAL, is in fact a very limiting genetic path.
Let’s consider this.