How Cannabis Strains are Made: The Basics
Cannabis strains are bred with a number of goals in mind like effect, flavor, smell, appearance, and reliability. The details of how professional breeders do this can be incredibly complex, often involving expertise in cannabis botany, biology, economics, and more, but the physical process is pretty simple.
New strains are created when a breeder decides to cross two existing ones. Generally, this is how it works:
First, a female and male plant are both needed to create new genetics, so one strain is picked to be male and one to be female. This is an important choice because the strain picked to be female is going to pass on more of its genes than the strain picked to be male.
Both “old strains,” are planted and placed in what’s called a breeding chamber, which is essentially just an enclosed area designed to contain pollen. Usually, multiple females and only one male are planted because a single male can breed with up to twenty females. They are put on a 12 hour dark, 12 hour light cycle, fed, watered, and left to grow.
3. Overtime, the male plant develops pollen sacs. When the plants begin to flower, or produce the “bud” part of the cannabis plant, the male will release pollen and fill the air of the breeding chamber. This causes the surrounding female plants to produce seeds with genetics from both “old strains.”
4. The seeds are then gathered, generally 3-4 weeks after the flower would normally be harvested, and stratified. Stratification is a process used to trick seeds into thinking it’s the right time of year to germinate, or start growing, by exposing them to different temperatures and moisture levels.
5. Once the seeds are germinated, they’re ready to plant and voila: we have many unique cannabis plants distinct from one another with genetics from the two “old strains” we started with.
6. After this, the breeders then have to narrow down which “new strain” plant produces the desired qualities, or phenotypes, they’re looking for. This may be flavor, potency, taste, smell, structure, and more than likely some combination of all of these.
7. Once the golden goose is found, it usually undergoes a process called back-crossing. This is when a plant is bred with itself to purify it’s genetics. If this is not done, it’s likely the strain will be inconsistent and thus generally considered bad quality and hard to replicate.
And that’s it. That’s how new cannabis strains are made.