This book has emphasized the use of the right strain for particular growing conditions. Now we will look at many important factors a grower may want to know when breeding.
Breeding Decision Factors
Viable pollen (from sacks) of a male plant must contact the pistils from a female plant in order to produce seeds. The pistils of a female plant are located in the flowers and at the nodes. Seeds can be made at any time the pistils are healthy, if the weather permits.
To determine which plants to breed, the breeder should pay attention to how successfully all the plants grow in the vegetative, early-flowering, and late-flowering states.
Good breeding insight allows for the maintenance of desired traits, such as heavy-volume, fast maturation, good or bad odor, and a will to survive in a particular climate.
There are also fancy and advanced quality traits, such as pistil color, leaf pattern, flower density, and aroma during burning, but to make breeding simple, these specific traits have been left out of this discussion in favor of taking a common sense approach.
Monitoring stalk diameter at the base of a plant and observing root mass will help in determining a larger volume plant.
In general, larger-stalked plants are harder to pull out of the ground, which indicates a more elaborate root system. The root environment must be consistent for correctly determining root mass, because a highly oxygenated, well-fertilized root medium will allow a plant to make a more substantial root system in less space.
If small plants are preferred so that a garden needs less care, then a grower should look for small diameter stalks and less root mass. Plants with smaller stalks and less root mass will use a smaller amount of water and are not so prone to being blown over by heavy winds.
In order for a grower to accurately assess stalk and root mass, plants should be exposed to identical growing mediums and all other variables such as growing settings from germination throughout harvest.
A final test in determining volume is to calculate the yield at the harvest.
Fast / Late Maturation
Choosing plants that mature quickly will allow those timing traits to be passed on to the next generation, especially if the male and female are fast-maturing. Any inconsistencies will show up in the next generation if late and early-maturing plants are crossed. The crossed hybrids will have varying maturing times. However, some outdoor plants often have a sense as to when it is best to mature. A crop can always be a little late or a little early depending on the environmental conditions of the season.
Late plants may be desired, in order to capitalize on a long growing season.
The amount of nitrogen used during flowering can alter the harvest date. Nitrogen usage during flowering will extend flowering, but it can increase the yield if it is used to combat a nitrogen deficiency if it is not applied in excess.
Some plants will smell when they are young seedlings, some will not smell from seedlings throughout full maturity. Breeding plants that don’t smell allows this trait to be passed on.
Plants that are growing in the particular climate in which they belong will look green, strong, and have no holes in their leaves from disease, bugs, etc. Strong plants will also adjust to and grow well in the various local weather and root conditions.
Importance of Grow Medium
Not only is the climate important in determining the ideal strain, but so is the medium below. A strain grown in a soil mixture may do well in various hydroponic systems, or it may not.
Some strains need more air down there than others, some more water, some more food and / or a slightly different diet. If hard work is performed on one cultivation technique, it is possible to eventually find plants that make perfect matches to various environmental conditions.
Many commercial seed companies have descriptions and pictures about various strains so that a grower can find a suitable strain for his particular growing climate.
Plants respond and adapt to the air at different elevations. It is more often easier to take a high-elevation plant and introduce it to a lower elevation than vice versa.
Plants can adapt to and utilize adverse weather to put on significant mass. Rainforest breeders have strains that grow in the cold and wet, while plants from another territory will turn pale and grow more slowly in the same adverse climate.
Continuous breeding—inbreeding and outbreeding (unrelated cross)—can give rise to strongly acclimatized plants.
It is easier to take a plant from adverse conditions and introduce it to a warmer, less adverse climate, than to take a plant from a warm, safe environment and throw it into a rainforest jungle.
Taking plants that grow well in low-light conditions can allow an outdoor grower to get a good yields in areas of good and poor sunlight.
Also, breeding low-light plants with other plants can pass on these characteristics to the next generation. Looking at the spaces between the nodes helps in determining how well some plants use light. Less space between the nodes is preferred.
Root diseases, such as leaf-spot fungus, exist in various soil conditions. Some plants can fight and live with the disease more easily than others.
Different plants can handle varying levels of frost. In the early spring, some plants can handle strong frosts, while others die or become mutated. In the fall, some plants can live through frosts of varying degree, while some plants will shut down, deteriorate, and mold in a light frost.
Some plants use more water than others and their leaves, stalks, and flower mass can be inferior to a plant grown alongside in identical conditions.
Some plants can put on significant rot-free mass in cold, rainy weather, while other plants will rot under identical growing conditions. Rainforest breeders know that without mold resistance in the plants, one is playing with fire in a climate zone that gets about 3.5 meters (more than 11 feet) of annual rainfall.
Seedlings can run in all sorts of types. They can be hybrids with scattered genetics, or purer strains with known characteristics. Good breeders generally have good seeds. An advantage of seedlings is that it is possible to grow different flowering strains in the garden from a batch of seeds, although some seeds may be completely unproductive.
The easiest way to produce outdoor seed in its natural setting is to leave a few plants in a clump. If all seedlings are from mother(s) that worked out well the year before, most new seeds should do fine the following year.
Odds are that with four or more plants, males and females will show up to allow for reproduction. This method seems to work well for those who grow only outdoors from spring through harvest and then shut down.
However, plants in all shapes and sizes may result if specific plants are not picked out for the breeding stock. Through continual inbreeding, the seed will eventually seem relatively uniform with regard to size, volume, maturation date, odor, and taste.
However, breeding the choice plants from seed that is continually inbred is recommended.
Making a Purebreed
A grower may want a pure strain so that he can produce a productive garden on demand using unknown seeds.
For starters, a grower should get two seedlots that are from different origins and grow the desired plants.
Then, the different seedlots should be crossed to make an F1 generation.
Now, inbreeding two plants from the F1 generation seedlot will produce an F2 generation.
Inbreeding two plants from an F2 generation will produce an F3 generation.
Now the seedline is stabilizing, and further inbreeding creates F4, F5, and F6 generations.
Knowledge and instinct are vital in breeding for the ideal strain and determining plants that are best suited for the growing conditions and produce the wanted results.
Stabilizing Unknown Seeds
If a grower continues to inbreed seeds over successive generations, the plants will become uniform. For example, If two unknown seeds produce a male and a female and reproduce to make seeds; a male and female from those parent plants can be used to make new seeds. Then, a male and female of the latest generation is used to make seeds. In time, consistency will show up.
Experimental Hermaphrodite Results
Plants that have been crossed using a chosen hermaphrodite and a strong genetically different female (without hermaphroditic characteristics) can sometimes be top quality, although the most difficult to make.
Hermaphrodites can look almost entirely female, with only a few male pollen sacks. On the other hand, hermaphrodites can look nearly completely male, with only a few small flowers that easily go unnoticed. Or hermaphrodites can look somewhere in between male and female by having a decent supply of male pollen and female flowers.
The cross between a female cutting and its mother that was shocked into hermaphroditism creates stability in the seed line, yet can produce a risky supply of hermaphrodite offspring. Seeds made from hermaphroditic pollen can produce more females than crosses from a single male and single female source, in most cases. Generally, self-pollinated hermaphrodites make less female seed and more hermaphrodites than a cross between a hermaphrodite and a non-hermaphroditic female. Hermaphrodites are a touchy issue.
Hermaphroditic breeding results can be different from strain to strain. Female plants that were offspring from hermaphrodite pollen have the potential to turn hermaphroditic when they overmature.
Many growers like to stay a mile away from hermaphroditic crosses because they can be a risk to the seed grower who wants flowers without seeds. Since hermaphroditism is often triggered by events such as environmental conditions, hermaphrodites can be time bombs when used anywhere but in a controlled environment.
Often though, hermes will only produce the odd pollen sack that will make a seed or so at the plant nodes.
Some growers that make female seed will often pick a male and female from that seedlot and inbreed them in order to reduce potential hermaphrodite problems, yet have a supply of consistent seeds.
The question many would ask is, “Why play around with hermaphrodites to achieve a higher female count, when sexing plants and cloning is so easy?”
Making Hermaphrodites from Females
Here is one method for forcing plants to turn hermaphroditic. At harvest time outdoors, a grower can harvest the plant, while making sure to leave some lower vegetation so it can be rejuvenated back into a vegetative state indoors. If this outdoor plant is transplanted from a permanent site to a container, then placed indoors to rejuvenate back with an 18-hour photoperiod, and flowered again at 12 hours when there is plenty of new growth, it may produce seed. It takes about 3 weeks to a month to begin the rejuvenation process. Before the rejuvenation takes place, the plant will look like it has no growth potential. One experiment of this type resulted in four hermaphrodites from four transplants. Clones from such plants will also be hermes.
It is important to always watch for hermaphroditic qualities in all aspects of growing, because hermes can easily go undetected and produce unwanted seed. Some hermaphrodites show female traits throughout early flowering, then suddenly produce unexpected male pollen sacks on the top. With correct timing, it is possible to pull off the unopened pollen sacks so that other females near the plant won’t produce seed.
Mature seeds can be saved and the immature seeds can be discarded. Immature seeds will look white and / or pale green. Mature seeds are brown with black specks. The time when the flowers are picked often affects the quality of seed.
Seeds can be stored in an airtight glass container like a canning jar or a ginseng vial with a rubber stopper. Little vials are nice for the ease of keeping tabs on several varieties. Containers should always be labeled immediately in order to keep accurate records.
Once the seeds are in glass, they can be put in the freezer, wrapped in plastic and buried in the ground, or stored in some other cool, dry, dark place.
Seeds should be stored at least one month before germinating. They can last several years in storage and still have high germination rates.
On the other hand, beautiful-looking seeds that have been stored properly can have low germination rates. Germination rates lower as the seeds age, although some strains have longer shelf lives than other ones.
In fact, some strains have the ability to have high germinating rates after years of storage at room temperature.
Before seeds are relied on for a crop, it helps to know how well they germinate.