How To Crossbreed Cannabis Plants

If you’re getting into the world of cannabis growing and cultivation, you may be interested in crossbreeding. One of the great things about cannabis is that you can breed different strains to develop hybrids with a wide array of benefits and desirable traits. However, while the crossbreeding process is somewhat straightforward, it takes a bit of time and patience. 

As we’ll discuss in this article, crossbreeding cannabis can be quite rewarding, but you need to be perseverant if you’re going to make it work. Realistically, you want to grow stable clones for harvesting and selling, then crossbreed on the side. Once you’ve managed to get a stable hybrid strain, you can send it to market and hopefully reap your rewards. 

So, with that in mind, let’s get crossbreeding!

A Brief Introduction to Cannabis and Genetics

The primary challenge of breeding cannabis plants is that they are dioecious. This term means that they reproduce from male and female plants. Most crops are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female reproductive parts. So, since you need to breed a male and a female, their genetics will intermix and create different results. 

Imagine when two people have multiple children. Not every child looks identical (unless they’re twins), and some may even wind up with recessive traits. For example, two parents with blonde hair may have a child with red or brown hair. The same thing happens with cannabis. Not every seed will contain the same genetic makeup, so you have to be diligent and persistent to ensure a stable strain that will be identical with each new generation. 

In some instances, this genetic mixing may give you hybrids that you weren’t trying to achieve but may offer advantages. In other cases, you might have to cull most of your seeds and try breeding the parent plants again to see if they mix well. Overall, you need a lot of patience since crossbreeding isn’t an exact science. Unless you have a lab and can extract DNA samples from each plant, the process is messy and will take time. 

Step One: Identify the Strains You Want to Breed

The first step to crossbreeding cannabis is also the easiest. You’ll need to pay attention to both males and females and look for desirable traits like: 

  • Shorter Growth Period – As a rule, plants that flower faster have dominant traits, while late bloomers are more recessive. So, if a recessive plant has characteristics you like, you need to pair it with another recessive gene for it to show up in future generations. 
  • Stickier Buds – Resin is what contains THC, so the more resin, the better the high. Look for females that have a lot of sap in their buds. 
  • Stronger Stalks – Males with thin, limp stalks are not worth cultivating. Instead, look for plants with thicker stems that can hold a lot of weight. When a plant is fully flowering, it can get pretty top-heavy, so you want something sturdy. Also, male plants with hollow stems tend to carry more THC. 
  • More Pollen – No matter what, male cannabis plants will drop lots of pollen when they’re ready for fertilization. However, some plants carry a lot more pollen than others, making crossbreeding even easier. Also, more pollen means the plant has more dominant genes, which can speed up the process. 
  • More Buds – The more buds your female plant has, the more you can harvest and sell. So, pick females that have the most buds per plant. 

Obviously, these traits are identifiable without smoking or ingesting your cannabis. When crossbreeding, you also want to consider how your product affects a user. Generally speaking, stickier weed will be more enjoyable, but that’s not a guarantee. Be sure to sample your buds to ensure you’ll deliver a high-quality hybrid once the process is all done. 

Step Two: Cull Undesirable Males

One advantage of crossbreeding cannabis is that you only need one male to fertilize many females. So, once you select a few choice plants, you can remove the rest. You can also identify undesirable males before they start dropping pollen. For example, those with shorter, droopier stalks should be culled immediately before they have a chance to flower. This way, you’re not wasting resources on a dud. 

Once you’ve identified your males, it’s crucial to separate them and place them in a contained environment. Cannabis pollen is highly adept at traveling via wind, so it’s easy to pollinate your females accidentally. When that happens, you may lose an entire crop. 

Step Three: Pollinate Your Females

You don’t need much pollen to fertilize your female plants. Just a brush stroke or two on their buds is enough to start the process. That said, you need to make sure to deactivate the pollen after fertilization. The simplest way to do this is by spraying the plants with water about three hours after pollination. Again, keep all of your breeding plants separate from the rest of your crops. Even if you’ve deactivated the pollen, there may be some residual granules that can float over to another plant. 

Step Four: Start Back Crossing

The most reliable way to create stable hybrid strains is through a process called backcrossing (aka inbreeding). When backcrossing, you’re mixing a child’s seed with a parent or a close relative. If you do this enough, you can filter out undesirable traits so that each subsequent generation is practically a clone of the parent plants. 

Backcrossing is a time-consuming process, and it can take dozens of generations before you get a stable strain. However, if you skip this step, each new generation will have wildly different outcomes, meaning you can’t deliver a consistent product to your customers. 

Tips and Tricks for Crossbreeding Cannabis

Although crossbreeding is technically a four-step process, there are numerous ways to mess it up. Here are some top tips to ensure success. 

  • Start With High-Quality Seeds – The best seeds have a hard outer shell and will germinate quickly. If you start with lackluster seeds, you’ll wind up with dud plants if they germinate at all. 
  • Stay Organized – Each set of seeds will have different genetic materials, so mixing everything up is easy. Crossbreeding requires controlled environments, so be sure to label everything, from plants to seeds to pollen. 
  • Start Small – Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start breeding two parents and see how well backcrossing works for you. Once the system is organized, you can try breeding multiple sets of plants. 
  • Maintain Separation at All Times – It’s really easy for cannabis plants to pollinate each other. Never mix plants and never leave males out with your regular crops. Accidental pollination can cost you a lot of time, energy, and profitability. 

Check Out Our Strains!

Are you ready to see what hybrid strains you can create? Start by having the highest quality seeds. We have a wide selection of cannabis cup-winning strains! Just imagine what you could breed.

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