Propagation and Breeding

Producing Seeds

Marijuana is naturally prolific. It has been estimated that a single male plant can produce over 500 million pollen grains 41. A large female plant can bear tens of thousands of seeds. In nature, pollen is carried from the male flowers to the stigmas of the female flowers by air currents or the wind. Indoors or out, if the plants are simply left on their own, most gardens produce many more seeds than are needed for the next crop.

Seeds usually become viable within two weeks after pollination, although they may not have developed good colour by this time. The colour can take several more weeks to develop, particularly indoors or late in the year, when the light is not as strong. Once seeds are plump, well-formed, and of a mature size, most of them will be viable. When seeds have also developed good colour, their viability should be over 90 percent.

Pollination may also be carried out artificially. Pollen can be collected and the transferred to the female flowers with a cotton swab or artist's brush, or shaken directly over the flowers. Store pollen in a clean, open container and keep in a dry area at moderate temperature. Remove any flowers or vegetative matter from the pollen, because they encourage fungal attack.

Once advantage of artificial pollination is that only the flowers on certain plants need be pollinated. This allows you to harvest most of your grass as sinsemilla, while developing seed on part of the plant. If you have only a few plants, pollinate a single branch, or perhaps only a few lower buds, in order to leaves the most potent buds seedless.

A good way to insure a thorough pollination, and to avoid contaminating other females, is to loosely tie a transparent bag containing pollen directly over individual buds, branches, or whole plants. Shake the bag to distribute the pollen and carefully remove it from several hours to a few days later.

To avoid contaminating a sinsemilla crop, you must remove any males from the garden before their flowers open. Males in pots can simply be moved to another area or room if you want to keep them growing. Male plants can complete development even in low light; so they do not need artificial light. Otherwise, the best procedure is to harvest the males intact by cutting them at their base after some flowers have formed distinct (but unopened) buds. Hang the whole plants upside down in a sheltered area where there is moderate light and where temperatures and humidity are not extreme. Place clean plates or sheet plastic beneath the plants to catch falling pollen. Generally there is enough stored water in the plant for the unopened flowers to mature and drop pollen. Well-formed flowers may open the next day. Usually all the flowers that are going to open will do so within two weeks.

Pollen gradually loses viability with time, but pollen that is about three weeks old generally has sufficient viability for good seed production. However, the age of the pollen may influence the sex ratio of the next generation.

For instance, in a 1961 study with hemp plants 97, the percentage of females in the next generation was 20 percent higher than in the control plants (natural pollination) when pollen 14 to 17 days old was used. A small increase in female-to-male ratios also occurred when pollen was fresh (six hours or less). The age of the stigmas appeared not to affect the sex ratio.

Producing Female Seeds

If it were possible to know which seeds are female and which are male, marijuana growing would be even simpler than it is. There is not practical way to discern the gender of a seed – but there is a simpler procedure for producing seeds that will all grow into female plants.

To produce feminized seeds, the plants are fertilised with pollen with male flowers that appear on a basically female plant. Such flowers appear on intersexes, reversed females, and hermaphrodites (see section 17). Female plants have an XX complement of sex chromosomes; therefore, the pollen from the male flowers that form on female plants can only carry an X chromosome. All seeds produced from flowers fertilised with this "female" pollen will thus have an XX pair of sex chromosomes, which is the female genotype.

Although the male Cannabis plant can produce female flowers, it cannot produce seed; so there is no chance of mistakenly producing seed on a male plant. It is possible to use pollen from an intersexual plant that is basically male (XY); the resulting crop of seeds will have the normal 1:1 ratio of males to females. For this reason, choose a plant that is distinctly female as a pollen source. A female plant with a few random male-flower clusters, or a female plant that has reversed sex are both good pollen sources. The seed bearer can be any female, female intersex, or reversed-female plant.

In most crops, careful inspection of all the females usually reveals a few male flowers. And often, when females are left flowering for an extended period of time, some male flowers will develop. If no male flowers form, you can help to induce male flowers on female plants by severe pruning. One such procedure is to take the bulk of the harvest, but to leave behind some green leaves to maintain growth (as described in the section on "Double Harvests" in section 20). Most of the plants will continue to form female flowers, but male flowers are also likely to form. At times, the plants may not grow particularly well, and may in fact form distorted and twisted leaves, but they will produce viable seeds as long as some stigmas were white when pollinated. (Remember, it only takes a few fertile buds to produce hundreds of seeds.) Pollinate the female flowers by hand as soon as pollen becomes available.

{Figure 82. A solitary male flower on a female plant provides "female" pollen. (Also see Figure 84 for a female reversing sex.)} {Figure 83. Growth may not be vigorous, but seeds will form if stigmas are white when pollinated.} Under artificial lights, turn the light cycle down to eight hours after cutting the plants back. The short cycle helps to induce male flowers on female plants.

Male-free seed can also be produced by pollen from a natural hermaphrodites. The progeny, however, may inherit the hermaphroditic trait, resulting in a crop with some hermaphrodites as well as females. This could be a problem if you want to grow sinsemilla the next crop.

Breeding

Breeding Cannabis is done simply by selecting certain plants to be the pollinators and the seeds bearers. Characteristics such as fast growth, early maturation, and high potency might be the reasons for choosing one plant over another. Selection can be by means of the male plants, the females, or both. A simple procedure would be to harvest all male plants, sample each for potency, and use the most potent plant for the pollen source. At harvest, compare the seeded females for potency, and use seeds from the most potent plant for the pollen source. At harvest, compare the seeded females for potency, and use seeds from the most potent plant for the following generation.

There are two basic approaches to breeding. One is inbreeding, and the other is outbreeding. Inbreeding involves starting with a single variety and crossing individuals to produce seeds. In this way, certain desirable characteristics that the parents have in common will probably be perpetuated by the offspring.

Certain variants with unusual characteristics, such as three leaves to a node instead of the usual two leaves, can be inbred continuously until all progeny carry the trait. One problem with inbreeding is that other desirable characteristics may be lost as the new population becomes more homogeneous. Inbreeding plants indoors seems to lead in a loss in potency by the fourth generation. (Preceding generations were considered comparable to the original imported grass.)

Outbreeding is crossing two different varieties. Offspring from parents of two different varieties are called hybrids. Cannabis hybrids exhibit a common phenomenon on plants called "hybrid vigour." For reasons not wholly understood, hybrids are often healthier, larger, and more vigorous than either of their parents. {Figure 84. Upper left: An old female reversing to male flowering. Lower left: Three leaves to a node (trifoliate). Upper right: A plant with three leaves to a node alternating with one leaf on next node. Lower right: Three-leafed plants sometimes split into two growing shoots.}

A reference to cannabinoid content of hybrids from crosses between chemotypes was made in a 1972 study by the Canadian Department of Agriculture: "The ratio of THC to CBD in hybrids was approximately intermediate between the parents … there was also occasionally a small but significant deviation toward one of the parents – not necessarily the one with the higher or lower ratio of THC to CBD." 51 This means that a cross between a midwestern weedy hemp (type III) and a fine Mexican marijuana (type I) would yield offspring with intermediate amounts of THC and CBD, and which hence would be considered type II plants.

Homegrowers have mentioned that inbreeding plants often led to a decrease in potency after several generation. Outbreeding maintained potency, and sometimes (some growers claimed) led to increases in potency.

One area in which breeding can be useful for homegrowers is the breeding of early-maturing plants for northern farmer. Farmers in the north should always plant several varieties of marijuana. Mexican varieties generally are the fastest to mature. Individual plants that mature early and are also satisfactorily potent are used for the seed source in next year's crop. This crop should also mature early. Some growers cross plants from homegrown seed with plants from imported seed each year. This assures a maintenance of high-potency stock.

Potency Changes Over Generations

It is well-established that plants of the P1 generation (parentals, or the first homegrown plants from imported seed) maintain their chemical characteristics. (For example, type I plants yield type I progeny whose cannabinoids are about equal both quantitatively and qualitatively to those in their native grown parents.) This fact is shown by Table 25.

In the study 66 from which Table 25 has been adapted, individual plants within varieties differed by more than four times in CBD content and by more than three times in THC content. The researchers also noted that illicit marijuana samples contained proportionately less leaf material and proportionately more stem and seed material than samples grown in Mississippi. (Mississippi samples may be more dilute.) New Hampshire and Panama samples were nearly equal in terms of the sum of THC plus CBN.

One of the questions that persists in marijuana lore is what effect if any a change in latitude has on the plant chemotype over a period of generations. Non-drug types of Cannabis usually originate above 30 degrees latitude in temperate areas. Drug types of Cannabis usually originate in tropical or semitropical areas below the 30-degree parallel. Whether this is due entirely to cultural practices is questionable. More likely, the environment (natural selection) is the prime force, and cultural practices reinforce rather than determine chemotype.

Cannabis is notorious for its adaptability. Historically, there are many statements that the drug type of Cannabis will revert to the "fibre" type when planted in temperate areas, whereas the fibre type will revert to the drug type after several generations in a tropical area. That a change in chemotype is actually caused by transfer between tropical and temperate areas has not been verified scientifically. (Such studies are ongoing in Europe.) If such changes occur, it is also not known whether the change is quantitave (the plant produces less total cannabinoids) or whether it is qualitative (succeeding generations, for example, change from being high in THC and low in CBD to being high in CBD and low in THC).

We believe that qualitative changes can occur within a few generations, but can only guess what environmental factor(s) might be responsible for such a change. Probably the change has more to do with adaption of general growth and developmental characteristics than with particular advantages that production of either CBD or THC may bestow upon the plants.

The reason we suspect a change in chemotype is that these changes occur rapidly in evolutionary terms, in a matter of several generations. This rapidity implies that some very strong selective pressure are acting on the plant populations. Also, changes in the chemotype seem to occur globally, which implies that the selective pressures responsible are globally uniform rather than local phenomena. Such globally uniform pressures might be light intensity, daylength, ambient temperatures, and the length of the growing season. For example, in populations adapting to temperate areas, those plants that are able to grow well under relatively lower light intensity and cooler temperatures, and which are able to complete development in a relatively short growing season, would be favoured over siblings with more tropical characteristics.

Cuttings

Marijuana growing often transcends the usual relationship between plant and growers. You may find yourself particularly attached to one of your plants. Cuttings offer you a way to continue the relationship long beyond the normal lifespan of one plant.

To take a cutting, use scissors or a knife to clip an active shoot about four to sic inches below the tip. Cannabis does not root easily compared to other soft-stemmed plants. Cuttings can be rooted directly in vermiculite, Jiffy-MIX, a light soil, or in a glass of water. The cutting is ready to plant when roots are about an inch long, in about three to four weeks. A transplant compound such as Rootone can be used to encourage root growth and precent fungi from forming.

Keep the mixture consistently moist but not too saturated. Roots need oxygen as well as water in order to grow. Change the water daily if the cutting are in a glass of water. Cuttings root best in moderate light, not in intense light (HID's) or direct sunlight. The best light is fluorescent set on constant light (24 hour photoperiod).

{Picture. Comparing rooting mediums. Left to right: One, roots both in and removed from rockwool cube; two, perlite; three and four, perlite vermiculture mixture; five, vermiculite; not shown: cuttings died in peat-pellets. Best rooting was in perlite-vermiculite mixture. Pure vermiculite also worked well.} Cuttings taken from the same plant are genetically identical and are clones. Clones eliminate genetic differences between individuals, and hence are particularly useful in scientific experiments. By using clones, one can attribute variations between individuals specifically to outside factors. This would be particularly useful when testing, for example, the affect of fertilisers on potency. In the 1980's, scientists finally began to use this useful tool in Cannabis experiments.

Grafting

One of the most persistent myths in marijuana lore concerns grafting Cannabis to its closest relative. Humulus, the hops plant of beer-making fame. The myth is that a hops scion (shoot or top portion of the stem) grafted to a marijuana stock (lower stem and root) will contain the active ingredients of marijuana. The beauty of such a graft is that it would be difficult to identify as marijuana and, possible, the plant would not be covered under marijuana statutes. Unfortunately, the myth is false. It is possible to successfully graft Cannabis with Humulus, but the hops portion will not contain any cannabinoids.

In 1975, the research team of Crombie and Crombie grafted hops scions on Cannabis stocks from both hemp and marijuana (Thailand) plants 205. Cannabis scions were also grafted to hops stocks. In both cases, the Cannabis portion of the graft continued to produce its characteristic amounts of cannabinoids when compared to ungrafted controls, but the hops portions of the grafts contained no cannabinoids. This experiment was well-designed and carried out. Sophisticated methods were used for detecting THC, THCV, CBD, CBC, CBN, and CBG. Yet none of these were detected in the hops portions.

The grafting myth grew out of work by H.E. Warmke, which was carried out for the government during the early 1940's in an attempt to develop hemp strains that would not contain the "undesirable" drug 58. The testing procedure for the active ingredients was crude. Small animals, such as the water flea Daphnia, were immersed in water with various concentration of acetone extracts from hemp. The strength of the drug was estimated by the number of animals killed in a given period of time. As stated by Warmke, "The Daphnia assay is not specific for the marijuana drug … once measures any and all toxic substances in hemp (or hop) leaves that are extracted with acetone, whether or not these have specific marijuana activity." Clearly it was other compounds, not cannabinoids, that were detected in these grafting experiments.

Unfortunately, this myth has caused some growers to waste a lot of time and effort in raising a worthless stash of hops leaves. It has also leg growers to some false conclusions about the plant. For instance, if the hops scion contains cannabinoids, the reasonable assumption is that the cannabinoids are being produced in the Cannabis part and translocated to the hops scion, or that the Cannabis root or stem is responsible for producing the cannabinoids precursors.

From this assumption, growers also get the idea that the resin is flowing in the plant. The myth has bolstered the ideas that cutting, splitting, or bending the stem will send the resin up the plant or prevent the resin from going down the plant. As explained in our discussion of resin glands in section 2, these ideas are erroneous. Only a small percentage of the cannabinoids are present in the internal tissues (laticiferous cells) of the plant. Almost all the cannabinoids are contained and manufactured in the resin glands, which cover the outer surfaces of the above-ground plant parts. Cannabinoids remain in the resin glands and are not translocated to other plant parts.

We have heard several claims that leaves from hops grafted on marijuana were psychoactive. Only one such case claimed to be first hand, and we never did see or smoke the material. We doubt these claims. Hops plants do have resin glands similar to those on marijuana, and many of the substances that make up the resin are common to both plants. But of several species and many varieties of hops tested with modern techniques for detecting cannabinoids, no cannabinoids have ever been detected 212.

The commercially valuable component of hops is lupulin, a mildly psychoactive substance used to make beer. To our knowledge, no other known psychoactive substances has been isolated from hops. But since these grafting claims persist, perhaps pot-heads should take a closer look at the hops plant.

Most growers who have tried grafting Cannabis and Humulus are unsuccessful. Compared to many plants, Cannabis does not take grafts easily. Most of the standard grafting techniques you've probably seen for grafting Cannabis simply don't work. For example, at the University of Mississippi, researchers failed to get one successful graft from the sixty that were attempted between Cannabis and Humulus. A method that works about 40 percent of the time is as follows. (Adapted from 205)

Start the hops plants one to two weeks before the marijuana plants. Plant the seeds within six inches of each other or start them in separate six-inch pots. The plants are ready to graft when the seedling are strong (about five and four weeks respectively) but their stem has not lost their soft texture. Make a diagonal incision about halfway through each stem at approximate the same levels (hops is a vine). Insert the cut portions into each other. Seal the graft with cellulose tape, wound string, or other standard grafting materials. In about two weeks, the graft will have taken. Then cut away the unwanted Cannabis top and the hops bottom to complete the graft. Good luck, but don't expect to get high from the hops leaves. {Smoking any plant's leaves will give a short, slight buzz.}

Polyploids

H.R. Warmke also experimented with breeding programs during the war years. Polyploid Cannabis plants were produced by treatment with the alkaloid colchicine. Colchicine interferes with normal mitosis, the process in which cells are replicated. During replication, the normal doubling of chromosomes occurs, but colchicine prevents normal separation of the chromosomes into two cells. The cell then is left twice (or more then) the normal chromosome count.

Warmke's experiments concluded that polyploids contained higher concentrations of the "active ingredient." However, the procedure for measuring that ingredient was much the same is described for grafting, with probably similar shortcomings.

Polyploid Cannabis has been found to be larger, with larger leaves and flowers. Recent experience has shown that polyploids are not necessarily higher in potency. Usually they are about equal to diploid siblings.

Colchicine is a highly poisonous substance. The simplest and safest way to induce polyploids is to soak seeds in a solution of colchicine derived from bulbs of winter or autumn crocus (Colchicum). Mash the bulbs and add an equal part of water. Strain through filter paper (or paper towels). Soak seeds in the solution and plant when they start to germinate. Cultivate as usual.

Only some of the seeds will become polyploid. Polyploid sprouts generally have thicker stems, and the leaves are often unusually shaped, with uneven-sized blades. Leaves also may contain more than the usual number of blades. As the plant grows, leaves should return to normal form, but continue to be larger and with more blades.

If no polyploids sprout, use less water in preparing the solution.

Colchicine is also a prescribed drug for treatment of gout and is taken in pill form. These usually contain .6 mg per tablet. Use 10 tablets per ounce of water, and soak the seeds as described above.

Colchicine is also sold by mail-order firms which advertise in magazines such as Head or High Times.

Because colchicine is a poison, it should be handled carefully. It is not known if plants from seeds treated with colchicine will contain a harmful amount of colchicine when plants are grown. Harm is unlikely, because the uptake by the seed is so small, and because the colchicine would be further diluted during growth, as well as diminished by smoking. But we cannot guarantee that you can safely smoke colchicine-treated plants.

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