By Pat Goggins
Every year, dozens of new cannabis strains are created, each one combining the flavors, aromas, and effects of two or more strains into a new one. Weed tastes and trends change all the time, and cannabis breeders continually create new strains to feed the interests of cannabis consumers.
Weed is arguably one of the most cultivated plants (we’ve been growing it for at least 5,000 years), and growers can control the breeding and growing processes to select and refine the plant to suit various wants and needs.
To explain how new weed strains are created, we need to start with plant sex.
Weed breeding 101
The cannabis plant can be either female or male—this trait is called being dioecious and is rare in the plant world. Only female weed plants produce the buds that we all know and love. Whenever you see a field of cannabis plants covered with buds, those are all females.
Female weed plants also grow seeds, while male plants grow pollen sacs. When males grow to maturity, their pollen sacs open up and release pollen into the air, which can fall onto a nearby female plant and pollinate it.
When a pollinated female grows to maturity, it grows seeds with the buds, which carry the genetics of both the female and the pollinating male. When those seeds grow into new plants, they will be a new strain, combining traits of both the male and female.
Out in the wild, cannabis plants breed naturally. A male weed plant may happen to grow near a female plant, and when it releases pollen, the wind will carry the pollen to a female. When a female plant matures and then dies, its seeds will fall to the ground and grow as plants of the new strain the following year.
How to create a hybrid weed strain
Breeding can be done artificially and intentionally in a commercial or homegrowing setting. To start, cannabis breeders will select two strains to combine, based on traits such as taste, aroma, potency, effects, yield, ease of growing, and other factors. They’ll pick a female of one strain and a male of another.
A weed breeder will usually put a male and multiple female plants together in a closed room, called a breeding chamber, to contain the pollen and ensure a successful pollination. Pollination can also happen outdoors by keeping the plants close together, as long as there aren’t multiple strains releasing pollen.
Once a female plant is pollinated and grows to maturity, its seeds will be collected and then those seeds will be grown into plants. These new plants will contain the genes of both the female and male plants and are referred to as a cross (from crossbreeding) or a hybrid of the parent plants.
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