When it comes to strains, we’re experiencing an explosion

by DGO Web Administrator

So, you’d like a pure indica, a pure sativa, an 80/20 indica, a 60/40 sativa, a 50/50 cross, and something CBD-heavy? No problem – we have this Northern Lights at 18 percent THC, some Durban Poison at 21 percent, an Afgoo, some Lemon Skunk, and for that straight cross, it looks like we could go with Purple #1, The Ultimate, a nice Ultimate/White Widow cross, California Orange, Bubblegum, Chronic, Burmese Kush, Liberty Haze, Ice, AK-48, and about a half dozen others, and then we’ll grab you some Colorado Pure Charlotte’s Web – that should keep you busy for a bit.

The study of cannabis strains, like any good topic of interest, gets deep quick. If you start with a full-hearted willingness to learn, and a solid dedication of time, you can learn to grow reasonably good weed within a couple years. You’ll need dirt, light, and water; there’s a wide range to what the procurement and use of these three elements might entail, but that is the basic formula. You won’t get invited to the Cannabis Cup or anything, but you’ll get yourself a nice cyclical hobby that affords you relaxing hours among beautiful plants and rewards you with a nice payoff every couple/few months. Depending on your space and supplies, you could have a jar of cured bud of each of the strains listed above by, say, Christmas.

If you want to create your own strain and name it whatever tickles your fancy, there’s going to be quite a bit more involved. As we’ve moved through April here in DGO, we have discussed the history of cannabis strain development from Genesis through about 1970 in a couple columns. There is, of course, always more detail to flesh out the basics of this 4.5-billion-year span (or 6,000, depending on your proclivities), but I would posit that the ensuing 46 years would fill a volume many times larger than the “Eternal History of Cannabis to the Time of Nixon,” – like a Kevin-Hart-to-Shaquille-O’Neal-size difference. By the time Tricky Dick was placing our beloved herb into Schedule I, there were a couple dozen or so strains being cultivated worldwide. And at this moment, Leafly lists 2,265 (and I am pretty sure that number jumped up during the time it took me to boil three eggs) strains – that’s known as “explosive growth” (pun intended?).

For a cannabis breeder to create a stable, distinct strain requires hundreds to thousands of plants, each requiring a growing cycle of at least a third of a year, essentially endless care for and investigation of phenotypes (different structural traits which dominate plants within a line of a genotype – or gene pool. To wit: my brother, my sister, and I are all product of the genotype created from my parents’ breeding; my brother and I are 5-foot-9; my sister is 5-11 – she’s a sativa) in order to select and then continue to breed the desired traits and strongest plants.

There needs to be a straight genetic line forward in order to impart stability, but that line cannot be too straight or you are apt to end up with a new strain which can only be called “European Royal Family.” Breed too tight and the whole experiment falls apart; too loosely and the phenotypes can vary wildly, defeating the purpose of generations of breeding.  

If this is something you might be interested in, I advise taking this spring and summer to start learning to grow a couple strains you already love while reading up on topics like Mendelian genetics; F1, F2, F3 generations; crossbreeding, back-crossing, inbreeding, and outbreeding; and as many grow and breeding journals as you can Google search. Next week, we’ll take a look at a couple famous strains and how they came to be.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].

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