Cannabis yield is about more than quantity. Plant vigor and the desired prominence of cannabinoids like THC and CBD also play a role. If you’re looking to maximize your cannabis yield, you’ll also want to consider the presence of certain terpenes and flavonoids that essentially distinguish an individual strain.
When it comes to cannabis plants, growing outcomes can differ widely. To grow commercially, you need to aim for a high degree of consistency — and hygiene — in your product. Many cannabis-legal states have adopted a patchwork of rigorous testing requirements for things like potency, moisture level, and contaminants.
You don’t want to nourish and tend plants that can’t pass muster at the photosynthesis finish line — or pass a pop quiz at a testing lab. While growing cannabis may not be an exact science, it is a science nonetheless. The more you learn about it, the more likely you’ll become a successful cultivator in the highly competitive cannabis market.
With that in mind, a general understanding of seeds and genetics is essential for every cannabis grower. We’ve broken down some of the basics to serve as a growth medium for your eventual success.
Flower Power Starts With Genetics
Cannabis seeds come from two plant “parents” — one male and one female. Parent plants give a collection of genes (or genotype) to the seeds they produce that may one day grow into plants themselves.
A plant’s genotype provides it with an array of potential traits. The plant’s phenotype is the physical expression of traits that occurs when its genotype interacts with its environment. Just as no person is an exact replica of either of their parents, the same is true for cannabis offspring.
There are distinct characteristics for each cannabis strain imbued by the genetics of its two plant parents. Still, every plant is unique to some degree. Plants of the same strain can differ in shape, color, potency, aromatics, and more.
As important as genes are, variables in your plant’s growing environment, like growth medium, supplements, and lighting, may coax out innate potential like a desirable terpene profile. Conversely, conditions like inconsistent temperature or too much humidity can bring out weaknesses or flat-out harm your crop.
Maximize Your Cannabis Yield With Purpose
There are three recognized species of cannabis: sativa, indica, and ruderalis — though some consider sativa and indica subspecies of the same plant.
The lesser-known ruderalis is naturally low in THC and high in CBD. Growers can use ruderalis to create high-THC hybrid strains that exhibit the ruderalis trait of auto-flowering at between 21 and 30 days.
THC, CBD, and more than a hundred other cannabinoids — along with a huge variety of aromatic terpenes — impact the effects people experience when they consume cannabis. Every cannabis user consumes for different reasons, including relief from pain, nausea, inflammation, insomnia, and even seizures.
While some seek cannabis primarily to treat ailments, other users fall into the recreational category. Recreational users also seek their own spectrum of sensory experience and/or medicinal effects. As a cultivator, you can maximize your cannabis yield with hybrid plants that possess some of the most sought-after attributes.
Hybrids: Infinite Potential for Variation
Female cannabis plants produce flowers with resinous trichomes. Trichomes are tiny crystalline structures that produce terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids that make each strain unique.
When you pollinate a female with pollen from a male of a different strain, the female produces seeds of a new hybrid strain. This creates a new blend of potency, scent, and flavor. One example of a popular hybrid is Banana Kush.
When it comes to growing, there are species-specific differences. For example, plants referred to as indicas are known for resinous buds and short flowering times, desirable attributes for commercial production. Sativas grow exponentially in their budding phase and may tolerate humidity better. They also take longer to mature.
It’s possible as a grower to experiment and create strains with new “personalities.” However, your results will only be as good as your hypothesis, and failed experiments can be time-consuming and expensive. It’s a good idea to fully understand the science of cannabis breeding before you jump in with both feet.
Hybrids & Compound Genetics
Strains can be created sequentially to capture and combine certain traits. Inbred lines (IBLs), or “true breed strains,” are grown with selective inbreeding to preserve certain features. An IBL requires plant parents with predictable traits that can produce stable, consistent offspring with a single dominant phenotype generation after generation.
An F1 strain combines two inbred lines to create a new first generation from unrelated parents. You can take a male and a female from two inbred lines and cross them to create an F1.
Going further, an F2 generation is produced by crossing F1s to each other. For example, you could take a male from an F1 strain that’s called Buzz Cut and use its pollen to fertilize a female from a strain called Come Hither. The seeds you produce would yield a brand new strain — an F1 generation — that you might call Buzz Up.
Sequencing can continue through F3, and F4, but as you progress toward a higher F-number, the chances of variation in resulting seedlings increases. Likewise, the likelihood of parents passing their unique traits onto hybrids decreases. Overall, the results become less predictable.
Clones: The Mother of Invention
Clones can shorten your growing cycle by the amount of time it takes a seed to root, sprout, and become vegetative. Since time is money, many commercial growers start with cloned plants that are already well into their vegetative cycle.
In the cannabis lexicon, a clone refers to a plant that is an exact reproduction of its original mother plant. Cloning is an asexual way to propagate cannabis plants using cuttings carefully taken from a mature mother plant. Cuttings are taken when a plant is at least a couple of months into its vegetative cycle, but never once it starts flowering.
Cloning results in plants with the same genetics and predictable growth as the healthy plants they’ve come from. In a commercial market where consumers are seeking consistency, cloning helps meet that demand. At the same time, if the mother plant had any health issues, its clone will likely manifest them.
Growing from Seeds
Growing from seeds requires germination time, which can take up to 10 days. You’ll also need to account for the time it takes your seedlings to become vegetative, which may be up to three weeks. Even though growing from seeds instead of clones requires extra time for these phases, there are a few positives to consider.
Seeds are accessible and affordable. Cannabis plants grown from seeds develop hearty taproots instead of the fibrous roots of a clone. Growing from seeds puts you in control of your plants’ lives from their inception. However, seed variations could result in staggered harvest times, harming your efficiency and ability to maximize your cannabis yield.
If you choose to grow from seeds, you need to source and vet them carefully. Check to be sure they are viable and hardy, with good resistance to pests and mold.
Potency, Quantity & Quality
You want to maximize your cannabis yield when it comes to the amount of your harvest as well as its potency, appearance, and flavor profile. If you’re growing for THC content, aim high. The market craves a potency that hovers around the 30% mark. Cannabis with a potency that falls below 22% can be a tough sell.
Since gardeners began breeding roses for appearance, many varieties have lost their precious scent. As a cannabis grower, you need to make sure you don’t sacrifice any favorable flower qualities, like aroma, for the sake of a bigger yield. Besides, when it comes to cannabis, the stronger the smell, the more potent the potion.
Our garden management services can help you increase the production, quality, and efficiency of your cannabis business. To learn more, contact us at Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting and schedule a consultation.