Franco's tricks on: breeding your own genetics

in Breeding Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:41 pm
by sin inc | 101 Posts | 934 Points

Franco's tricks on: breeding your own genetics

A long time ago I started smoking cannabis, then soon after I started growing it. And that's when I realised, like many do at that stage, the simple truth that breeding is to growing what driving is to walking. Ever since I started growing cannabis back in 1989 i begun dreaming of breeding my own strains, of creating my own crossings. And thanks to Arjan and my work at Green House Seed Company, one day that dream become a reality. Now I want to share a few secrets about this magical art, a science that goes beyond measurable data and into the realm of feelings, perception and sixth sense.

Breeding is the process of creating and stabilizing new strains, and it all starts from sourcing good genetics to start with. There are many ways of breeding, from simple selection of traits all the way up to cannabinoid, terpens and DNA profiling. But the basic principles are the same. For the home-breeder, the point is to find great starting genetics, cross them, and then to select until the desired traits are found. After this, the more tricky step is a matter of reproducing the selected individuals, by making a stable strain out of them.
The starting material for breeding should be anything with great qualities that are easily identifiable. If possible, it is best to use regular seeds for home-breeding, but it is also possible to do it with feminized, although it requires more selection. Breeding should be targeting a single main train, or a selected number of traits. The larger the number, the higher the risk of overlooking something in the process. The rule of thumb is: keep it as simple as possible.

There are many ways of home-breding: some do it for resin, others for flavor, others for production. Some for more than one trait, in which case it is best to do it by selecting and breeding for a single trait at the time. For example, if I would wanna take Super Lemon Haze seeds and cross them with a heavy-producing indica to increase yield without losing the typical lemon flavor, the best way would be to first cross the two, then select individuals for production, stabilize that trait, and then search for the specific flavor.

Stabilizing can be done with back-crossing technique, where selected individuals carrying desired traits are crossed back with the original parent carrying the same similar traits. For example, if a Super Lemon Haze is crossed with a White Rhino for increasing production while keeping the lemon scent, the selected off-springs that are most producing will be back-crossed to the original Super Lemon Haze plant for boosting lemon flavor.
The stabilization process of a selected crossing is a more complicated process, requiring large spaces to be able to check large number of individuals, and this is the reason why few seed companies actually stabilize their strains. Planting a crop of F1 hybrid seeds to select individuals carrying desired traits is one thing. Backing up several selected individuals to stabilize the lines is another. It requires space, to be able to verify the entire gamma of genetic combinations of the population (in cannabis this means planting over 10000 units of F1 to find the few individuals that carry desired expression of traits, then use them for the back-crossing to original parents).

Depending on the strain and the cross, it is usually necessary to back-cross or inbreed 3 to 6 generations before true uniformity is reached. In the case of extreme sativas, for example, it is necessary to go down several generations before any uniformity is achieved, while with indica strains the task is a little easier.
What makes the difference is also the desired level of uniformity: especially for sativas, it is usually very much handy to allow phenotypes to manifest themselves, so growers can select the ones that a best for them and their needs. With more commercial strains, it is usually more appreciated when plats are very uniform, to guarantee an uniform product.

The point of home breeding is that it is rarely possible to plant as many off-springs to actually represent the population. Because of these reduced number of plants in use, finding exceptional individuals becomes also a matter of luck and, in part, “green finger”, or sixth sense.

Let’s not forget that many champion strains were born simply as anomalies in a vast selection of individuals. This is exactly what happened with the Cheese in the UK.

No matter how small the home-breeding operation, in my opinion it is always the most interesting, fun and rewarding way to grow cannabis. Making new flavors and new types of plants keeps mixing the gene-pool, keeps creating diversity, and most of all keeps increasing the number of seeds that go around between smokers and growers. In a few words: it is the best way to keep fighting for the cannabis cause.

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