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Choosing the right seed is probably the most important decision that a grower makes. The seed, actually the fruit of the cannabis plant, properly known as an achene, contains, among other things, the germ plasma, or genetic material.
The genetic material determines the plant's potential: size, shape, time to maturity and cannabinoid content. Given adequate amounts of light, water, nutrients, oxygen and carbon dioxide, and warmth, the plant can achieve its full potential. By choosing seeds from plants suited to the growing conditions in your garden, you can assure yourself of a large, potent yield.
There are several factors to consider when deciding what varieties to plant—the desired high, the maturation time, and the shape of the plant.
Quality and Characteristics
The high is the most important factor. Choose seeds from grass that you like. Potency should not be the sole determinant—the quality of the high is just as important. The ratios and absolute amounts of the 57 known cannabinoids that are found in any particular sample is partly genetic, much the same as in grapes. Each variety has a distinctive taste, but there are variations from year to year because of differing climactic conditions.
Maturation time is another important characteristic, especially for outdoor growers. Most imported marijuana now comes from Colombia or other equatorial countries with a growing season of eight to ten months. Plants from those areas have a long time in which to flower and produce seeds. When equatorial plants are grown in an area with a shorter growing season, they do not have enough time to produce mature colas or seeds, before the end of the growing season or before the start of the hunting season.
Ragweed or midwestern cannabis is descended from plants escaped from hemp fields. It was cultivated for fiber and seed from colonial times until the 1940’s. Hemp matures to in three to five months, depending on variety. Unfortunately, most varieties contain large amounts of cannabadiol (CBD), a cannabinoid which doesn’t get you high, and small amounts of THC, the main component of the marijuana high.
There are several methods you can use to get plants that will mature within the American growing season. The easiest way is to choose seeds from plants acclimated to regions situated at some distance from the Equator. Marijuana from northern Mexican states, such as Sonora, Sinaloa, and Valisco may mature up to six weeks earlier than Colombian. Other countries that grow marijuana and have shorter growing seasons are Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and northern India.
The problem with plants from these countries is that, as the distance from the Equator increases, the ratio of CBD to THC increases. Marijuana from Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Nepal—countries that lie on the 30th parallel—may have equal amounts of CBD and THC. But this is not always the case. Plants evolve at the population level. That means that a particular population, (a patch or field) evolves in response to the conditions it experiences—the micro-climate—rather than to the average conditions found in the region.
Hybrid: Strain Development
Another method for producing maturing plants is to develop your own strain, by selecting for particular qualities. For instance, you could plant a garden using an equatorial marijuana variety. By selecting for early-flowering, potent plants, your strain will develop into a fast-maturing variety after several generations.
Marijuana and hemp can be crossed to produce hybrids. These plants will mature earlier than the equatorial parent and will be quite hardy. But the marijuana will not be as potent or have the same quality high as the exotic parent. Another drawback is that the progeny of the F1 or first generation, the F2 generation, will not remain true because of differences in genetic makeup.
Indoor Growing Tips
This means that for a uniformly flowering garden, only F1 hybrids can be used. But growers can produce more than enough seed from just a pair of plants. To assure seed maturation, growing should be done in a greenhouse or indoors.
Indoor growers can choose seeds and develop breeding programs based on the following considerations:
1. Fast development under limited light-long day conditions. This is similar to the light cycle experienced by northern latitude hemp plants.
2. Insect and disease resistance: Some plants may not get infected when others do; the resistance could be genetic.
3. Full bud development.
4. Ability to regenerate for multiple flowering. Indoor plants can often be regenerated after flowering by changing the light cycle.
Your Ideal Space
A final consideration is the size and shape of the plant. Each garden has a plant of ideal size and shape. In forest areas, growers may require a tall-growing plant such as a South Korean, northern Mexican, or a marijuana-hemp F 1 hybrid. In areas where a bushy plant may be obvious the more diminutive Indica varieties can fit right in. Colombian plants grow into a conical shape, but they can be pruned to a low bush or trained by bending the main branch.
Home gardeners usually like to grow several varieties, so that they can see what does best in the garden. Each variety has its own look, fragrance, taste, and a bouquet of cannabinoids.