Cannabis Breeding 101: A Basic Introduction

Source: Royal Queen Seeds
Brandon Choquette 17 Mar 2020

Cannabis is a species of plant that is anemophilous, meaning that it usually relies on wind-blown pollination to reproduce in feral populations. The pollen is then carried to a female pistillate, hopefully pollinating a female flower to create future hybrid progeny. 

Over the last few decades, plant breeding enthusiasts have developed a sophisticated botanical craft-culture by utilizing the cannabis plant’s reproductive process to selectively breed for new traits and characteristics with the goal of developing new unique cultivars. 

Monoecious Or Dioecious?

Source: Botany & Breeding

The term “dioecious” comes from Greek origins, meaning “two houses.” Dioecious plants are plants that come from homozygous genotypes (stable genotypes) that produce distinct male and female plant offspring, each with a distinct male OR female flowering-cycle.

The term “monoecious” comes from Greek origin as well, meaning “one house.”

Most common food crops are monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same plant, but not the same blossom. The two types of flowers are distinct on a stable monoecious plant. Monoecious cannabis plants are also commonly referred to as hermaphrodites, producing both male and female reproductive organs, but should not be confused with stress-induced hermaphrodition.

Male plants undergo a process of dehiscence; releasing and dispersing pollen, reproducing with female plants via wind-blown pollination.

Female plants produce pistils during the flowering-cycle to collect male cannabis pollen; often naturally carried by insects, animals or gusts of wind.

Cannabis genotypes that produce both stable male and female offspring are commonly known in breeder terminology as “regular” cannabis genetics.

Breeding Your Own Cannabis

Every cannabis plant is different, when someone germinates a seed, the resulting offspring will have a mix of traits inherited from each parent plant. 

As different plants are bred together, people can selectively breed them over generations for favorable traits.

Example: (P1+P2) = (F1) Hybrid Offspring

(F1) also known as the first generation of offspring, descending from the (P1+P2) genetic stock

F standing for filial, meaning the generation or generations after the parental generation, and the number represents the generation of offspring.

As different plants are bred together, people can selectively breed them over generations for favorable traits.

Let’s say that (AA) is the gene that turns our cannabis completely purple during the flower cycle. If we cross breed two different offspring over generations to stabilize the (AA) purple gene, whether it be dominant or recessive in ether phenotype, our resulting breeding process should look like this:


(F1aa) + (F1aa) = (F1Aa) = a heterozygous trait; Unstable Characteristic 

(F1Aa) + (F1aa) = (F1Aa) = a heterozygous trait; Dominant Characteristic 

(F1Aa) + (F1Aa) = (F1AA) = a homozygous trait; Stabilized Characteristic

(F1AA) + (F1AA) = (AA) = a homozygous trait; Augmented Characteristic

Over a few generations of selectively breeding flavoritable plants, new offspring will express selected traits more dominantly, and other traits not selected for, will become more recessive.

What Traits Should I Breed For?

The first question to ask is: What the main goal of my breeding project?

Genetic diversity is everything when it comes to breeding your own cannabis. The more genetic stock you have to work with, the easier it becomes to find specific traits that you want to include in your breeding project.

Almost every variable of the cannabis plant can be edited via proper selective breeding techniques:

Seed (variegates): Texture, coloration, shape.

Sprout: Leaf pigment, stem coloration, leaf growth pattern, leaf texture.

Immature Plant: Leaf pigment, stem coloration, branching pattern, leaf texture, node spacing.

Mature Plant: Leaf pigment, stem coloration, branching pattern, node spacing, height, leaf growth pattern.

Flowering Plant: Calyx structure, calyx pigment coloration, branching pattern, height, stem coloration, flower structure, flower production rate, pistil production, pistil coloration, leaf pigment coloration, chemovar profile.

Dried Appearance or Bag Appeal: Dried pistil pigmentation, dried plant material pigmentation, stem pigmentation, “fluffy” or “dense” calyx structure, calyx size, kief profile, kief pigmentation.

For those interested in breeding their own cannabis, it’s an exciting time to live. With access to a plethora of biodiversity, we have seen the cannabis breeding culture develop immensely over the past few decades into a new innovative frontier of plant biology. 


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