In 2020, more cannabis users are opting to grow their weed from home rather than buy it from retail dispensaries. There’s obviously some work involved if you choose to take the grow-from-home route, but for most people, the pros always outweigh the cons.
Growing from home means that you can dodge those high dispensary prices for the same old strains you’ve been smoking for decades. The convenience of having affordable weed fresh for the picking in your basement or guest closet is a huge benefit, but the real benefit is the fact that you’ll be able to get creative and make your very own hybrid strains.
Creating your own strains may sound like something only an advanced grower can handle, but it’s actually not that difficult as long as you know the basics of marijuana genetics, which we’ll cover here. We’ll also include some newbie tips for creating high-grade marijuana hybrids that will help you to get innovative with hybrid strains creation.
First, Understand the Basics of Cannabis Genetics
Before you can even think about cross-breeding two strains to make a hybrid, you have to have at least a basic understanding of genetics. There are a lot of terms you’ll hear in regards to genetics, and knowing what each one means will make the process of creating a hybrid so much easier.
Here are the main terms you should know:
A landrace strain is one that originates from a region of the world that has been known for growing cannabis naturally for many centuries. These regions have the ideal climate conditions for outdoor cannabis growth, like the mountainous countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Some of the most well-known landrace strains are Afghani Kush from Afghanistan, Durban Poison from South Africa, and Acapulco Gold from Mexico. If you’re cross-breeding and making a hybrid, using a landrace is a great idea since these strains are known for their strong genes and high potencies.
Genotype & Phenotype
If you know anything about genetics, you’re probably already familiar with these 2 terms. Genotype refers to the overall genetic makeup, and some people call it the “blueprint for growth”.
The phenotype, on the other hand, is the physical expression of the genotype. It’s up to the environment to induce certain characteristics of the genotype, and the outcome of the characteristics is what makes up the phenotype. This refers to everything from color, shape, smell, and resin production.
So while the genotype lays the framework for possible characteristics, the phenotype is how those characteristics actually come across. Think of it this way. Just because a human has the genes that allow for blue eyes doesn’t necessarily mean he/she will end up having blue eyes.
First Generation Hybrid (F1)
A first-generation hybrid, F1 for short, is a hybrid strain that has been bred from two completely different genotypes. When this hybrid is bred with another sister or brother F1 hybrid from the same crop, it creates an F2 hybrid. When this process is repeated, it creates an F3, then F4, then F5…
Inbred Line (IBL)
IBL, short for inbred line, is a more complicated concept. An inbred line is created after a specific lineage of strains has been several times, and eventually, this inbreeding leads to a different family of strains altogether. For simple hybrid crossings, you won’t have to worry about IBLs.
Be Selective Before Breeding
Part of the fun of creating marijuana hybrids is that growers see it as a creative process. Even though it might not turn out as expected, the anticipation of growing a completely new strain is much more exciting than growing the same old thing with each and every crop.
But how do you choose which strains to cross in order to create your new hybrid? This answer isn’t the same for all growers since many cannabis users have different opinions on what makes a strain great. While some like energetic sativas, others prefer body-numbing indicas. While some like potent skunkiness, others prefer floral aromas.
It’s up to you to be selective about the strains you cross based on your personal preferences. In addition to things like flavor, aroma, and strain type, you’ll also want to look closely at growth patterns (like long and lanky or short and bushy), THC concentration, bud density, and overall resistance to common grow room problems like mold and spider mites.
Helpful Tips for Creating a Hybrid Strain
Now that you know the basic terminology that goes along with cannabis genetics and what to look for when selecting breeds to cross, it’s time to get to work. These tips will help you along the way:
Always Keep Males & Females Separated
As is the case with any genetic crossing, you’ll need both male and female plants to create your hybrid. Just be sure to always keep the males and females in separate rooms. This will avoid any unwanted cross-pollination that could end up ruining a crop.
Choose Strong Parent Plants
When you choose your parent plants to cross, always be sure to choose the strongest female and strongest male in the crop. Since the females produce buds and the males do not, choosing the mother plant is a lot easier than choosing the father. It’s easy to predict genetic qualities by examining buds, so you shouldn’t have any trouble picking out the strongest female.
Use Direct Pollination for the Females
While some growers pollinate the female by simply placing the male nearby, this isn’t the recommended pollination practice. Direct pollination is a lot more reliable. All you have to do is collect a bit of male pollen from the father plant’s pollen sacs, and then sprinkle the pollen over the mother plant.
If you have extra pollen leftover, don’t throw it away. Freeze it to use later on so that you don’t waste any high-end genetic material, just be sure to store it in an airtight container and use it within a year.
Ask for Help When You Need It
All this information can be overwhelming to new growers, but just know that you’re not alone. As more and more people are choosing to grow from home and get innovative with their strain selection, more and more information on cross-breeding cannabis is becoming available.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help to resources in your area. Companies like Cannabis Growing Canada, an ACMPR licensing service, are constantly answering growers’ questions and queries, especially when the answers can’t be found on commonly-used sites like Leafly or High Times.