Traditionally, the method of creating replicable genetics was to back cross or breed different phenotypes together multiple times, to produce batches of seeds that have relatively consistent genetics. Which is why there aren’t different phenotypes available for older strains. However, modern practices can yield almost exact copies of the plant. The most common practice is cloning, which is where the grower will keep a ‘mother’ plant, a female plant that they keep in the veg cycle indefinitely. They will cut off small branches that they will plant and start growing into a whole new plant. This is the easiest way of propagating new plants and will preserve the exact genetics of the selected phenotype. The other method is to create seeds of the same phenotype. Instead of pollinating the buds to produce seeds, the grower will ‘stress’ the plant to cause it to go hermaphroditic and produce seeds that are a copy of its genetics. Stressing the plant can be done by giving it excess or a lack of light, nutrients, or heat.
Breeding and Genetics
When breeding cannabis, the grower will have to grow male plants as well as female plants, because the male plants produce the pollen necessary to start the process. Most growers will keep the male and female plants separate and use a brush to ‘paint’ specific female buds with pollen to only breed the exact genetics you want in the cross. These painted buds will then produce seeds with a mix of genetics from both plants.
When these seeds are harvested, each seed will have a different combination of genetics from the parents. These different genetics are called phenotypes. Some phenotypes will have more desirable genetics than others, but there will often be multiple phenotypes with significantly different, yet equally desirable genetics. The grower will then number the phenotypes, for example Gorilla Glue #4 vs Gorilla Glue #2.
Veg and Flower Cycle
Veg and flower cycles are the two main parts of cannabis plant life. The veg cycle is when the plants are putting all their energy into growing, producing leaves and nodes. No buds or flowers are produced at this point.
The flower cycle is when the plant is putting its energy into reproduction; producing flowers and not growing in overall size. Most cannabis plants life cycle is based off the sun. With outdoor growing, the flowering cycle starts when the days start to get shorter and they generally finish in October. with indoor growing, the growers control the life cycle by leaving the lights on 24/7 during the veg cycle, then switch to 12 hours on and 12 hours off, to initiate the flower cycle. This is how indoor growers can grow plants to the desired size for the space, no matter what genetics they are using. Not all plants follow the sun cycle though. Auto-flowering plants will start to bloom after a specific amount of time, no matter the light situation. The auto-flower trait is usually bred via a third subspecies called Cannabis Ruderalis. However, it is widely disputed whether Ruderalis is an actual subspecies or just a feral (in a wild state, unaltered by humans) phenotype of the cannabis plant. Ruderalis usually has very low THC and CBD levels though, so auto-flowering plants usually have lesser cannabinoid content, making them a less desirable final product.
Flushing and Curing
During the last two weeks of the flowering cycle growers that use added nutrients for their plants (almost all growers add nutrients to the water they give the plants) will have to ‘flush’ them, meaning only give them clean water with no nutrients, for clearing out excess nutrients in the plant’s system. If the plant isn’t properly flushed before it is harvested, there will be an excess of nitrogen and other chemicals that will affect the flavor and quality of the final product. One method people use to judge whether a plant was properly flushed, is that a flushed plant will yield bud that when fully burned it will produce white, dusty ash. And bud that has not been flushed fully will leave black or dark grey, more solid ash. This is not 100% accurate and doesn’t have scientific proof behind it, but it is something you can consider when sampling product.
The curing process is the process of drying out the buds so that don’t mold and burn well while preserving as much of the oils (cannabinoids and terpenes) as possible. The most popular practice for curing buds is while harvesting, remove the budded branches from the plant and remove all fan leaves while leaving the buds attached to the stem. The grower will then hang the stems upside down in open air for 1-2 weeks, depending on the density of the buds. This is most common, though some growers will detach the buds from the stem and dry them on mesh racks, while others will hang the whole plant intact.
Once the buds are mostly dry, they will be removed from the branches, trimmed, and moved to an airtight container that will be packed as full as possible without damaging the buds. They will remain in a jar for at least two weeks. During this portion of the curing process, the jars will be opened for a couple minutes at a time, or burped, to release the moisture in the jar. At the start, the grower will burp the curing bud 2-3 times a day. That will reduce to once every few days near the end of the curing process. There isn’t a widely accepted maximum curing time, but 2 weeks is the minimum. Some growers prefer to leave the buds in the jar for a month instead of two weeks. Not only does this process dry the bud while preserving the oils, but it also stabilizes the chemicals in the plant. Most of the terpenes created while the bud is growing, are called monoterpenes. They are very reactive and evaporate quickly. Jar curing will trap the terpenes and allow them to undergo reactions, turning them into more stable sesquiterpenes that will stay with the bud longer. A proper cure will yield bud with a much longer shelf life, better flavor, and will keep it from getting completely bone dry.
Warning: This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming. Smoking is hazardous to your health. There may be risks associated with the consumption of this product. This product should not be used by women that are pregnant or breastfeeding. For use only by adults twenty-one and older. Keep out of reach of children. Marijuana may only be purchased or possessed by persons 21 years or older.