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How Cannabis Strains are Created: The World of Cannabis Phenotypes

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How Cannabis Strains are Created: The World of Cannabis Phenotypes

How Cannabis Strains are Created: The World of Cannabis Phenotypes

Have you noticed how there are so many different types of cannabis strains that get created every year? It seems like there’s an endless variety of new strains, with different flavours, effects, and aromas. From 1970s Acapulco Gold to modern-day El Gordo, cannabis continues to be a diverse and ever-evolving plant. But what exactly are these new strains? And how are they created?

In Strain Hunters, a documentary series from Green House Seed Company, Arjan and Franco explore the world of cannabis cultivation to look for rare and new strains. During their adventures, they explain what cannabis phenotypes are and how they’re used to create wonderful new combinations of cannabis plants.

So, what exactly is a phenotype? Essentially, it’s the physical appearance or traits that distinguish one strain from another, such as leaf shape, bud size, and colour. Each phenotype is genetically different, and when breeders mix two or more of these phenotypes, they can create something entirely new.

The basics - Indica and Sativa

Sativa vs Indica

When discussing cannabis phenotypes, it’s important to understand the two main categories: Indica and Sativa. These two strains differ in appearance and effects. Indica plants tend to be shorter and bushier, with wider leaves, while Sativa plants grow tall and lanky with narrower leaves. The effects of consuming Indicas are usually more sedating, while Sativas produce energizing effects.

Amongst each of these two categories, however, are a variety of phenotypes with different combinations of characteristics. These phenotypes can be crossed with each other, creating countless new hybrids. For example, crossing an Indica-dominant plant with a Sativa-dominant one will create a hybrid that exhibits characteristics of both.


The art of breeding

Cannabis pollination

The genetic code of each cannabis plant is found in its chromosomes, and these determine how it looks, smells, tastes and affects users. When two plants with different genetic codes are bred together, a new strain is created, with its own set of unique characteristics. The possibilities for creating new strains are endless, as breeders can combine phenotypes from Sativa and Indica plants, as well as from other hybrids.

To create a new strain, male plants are used to pollinate female plants in breeding chambers that contain and control the pollination process. When the female plants are fertilized, the resulting seeds are collected and grown to create new plants. These new plants contain a blend of the genetic material from both parents, with some characteristics being more dominant than others. Once breeders have created a strain they’re satisfied with, they then stabilize it by breeding it together until the desired traits remain consistent over multiple generations.

The hunt for new strains

Franco and Arjan

Pheno hunting is the process of searching for rare and desirable phenotypes. In Strain Hunters, Arjan and Franco travel around the world in search of rare landrace strains, which are naturally-occurring cannabis varieties that have been cultivated for many generations. They spend months walking through fields, searching for plants with the desired characteristics they’re looking for.

Once they have found the plant with the desired phenotype, they collect seeds from it and use them to create new strains. By selectively breeding these rare plants, Arjan and Franco create unique strains with a variety of interesting characteristics. Pheno hunting is a time-consuming and challenging process, and often takes many years of work to perfect a strain. The Strain Hunters series is a great example of the dedication, passion and skill that goes into creating beautiful and unique cannabis strains.

Cloning cannabis phenotypes

Sometimes a phenotype is so special that it can’t be bred the traditional way. In these cases, the only way to preserve a phenotype is through cloning. Clones are exact copies of their parent plants, so the phenotype remains unchanged. Cloning simply involves taking a cutting from an existing plant and growing it in its environment, resulting in a new plant with the same genetic code as its parent.

Clone-only strains can be highly sought-after, as they may have unique characteristics that can’t be replicated through traditional breeding. Reports of clone-only strains commanding $10,000 or more have circulated in the industry, showing just how valuable these rare phenotypes can be. Clones are also popular with growers, as they allow them to reproduce their favorite strains easily and quickly.

The endless possibilities of cannabis phenotypes

Cannabis phenotypes are incredibly varied and diverse, creating a world of possibilities for new strain creation and exploration. From landrace strains to hybrids created through cross-breeding and cloning, the possibilities are endless when it comes to cannabis phenotypes. As breeders continue to develop new phenotypes, the world of cannabis will continue to expand and evolve.

Understanding phenotypes is key for anyone looking to create new strains or search for rare varieties, and it can be a great source of inspiration for cannabis enthusiasts of all kinds. With the help of Arjan, Franco and other dedicated breeders, we can explore the world of cannabis phenotypes to discover new varieties with unique and exciting characteristics. Thanks to their hard work, cannabis lovers can continue to enjoy a variety of amazing strains for years to come. 

RIP Franco Loja (1978-2017) - A true Strain Hunter and cannabis pioneer. He will be greatly missed.


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