What is cannabis pollen?
As with many other plants, cannabis pollen is produced by the male plant, then released to fertilize a female plant. Cannabis is dioecious, meaning it can produce both male and female plants. Cannabis pollen has a fine powdery appearance and a pale yellow hue and is essential for breeding. Whether continuing a particular line or creating hybrid varieties through cross-breeding, the importance of pollen cannot be underestimated!
Sources of cannabis pollen
Cannabis pollen comes primarily from male plants with XY chromosomes. Genetically male plants naturally produce pollen to fertilize female plants. In a natural environment, the wind carries the pollen with it until it reaches a female plant. However, in a controlled environment, cannabis pollen can be collected and applied to a specifically chosen plant partner. This collected pollen can thus be used for selective crosses. But not only male plants can produce pollen. Female cannabis plants with XX chromosomes can also be manipulated by certain processes to produce pollen. It is these techniques that make obtaining feminized seeds possible. Although these are the traditional methods of extracting cannabis pollen, it is also possible to buy pollen that is already ready for use. Depending on the country, however, this can be quite pricey and difficult to find.
How do you collect pollen for future use?
Collecting pollen is quite precise and should be done with care and patience. As male plants develop, you will notice that the pollen sacs begin to swell; a sure sign that they are almost ready to spread their pollen. This often happens within a few weeks of the start of the flowering cycle. If you want to collect pollen from an indoor plant, make sure there is no breeze or electric fans near the plant. That way, your precious pollen won’t be accidentally blown away. Once you have the perfect collection environment, it’s time to collect the pollen. There are a number of ways to do this. One method is to wait until the pollen sacks open and the pollen falls onto the leaves. Once on the leaves, you can pick it off with a clean piece of paper. Another method is to gently remove a bag and then tap it on paper. After one or two gentle taps, you will see a nice neat pile of pollen, ready for use. As mentioned earlier, it does take several weeks for a plant to finish developing pollen sacs. If you have a lot of growing experience you might be able to tell exactly when a cannabis plant is ready, and then squeeze out the unopened pollen bags and collect the pollen. This requires accurate timing, however, as the pollen must be fully ripe to be viable.
How do you store pollen?
Now that you have collected the pollen, you need a good way to store it if you don’t want to use it right away. It is best to store it in a cool, dark, but most importantly, dry environment. Moisture is your biggest enemy when it comes to successfully storing pollen. An area like a pantry is often a good choice. Some also use bags of silica gel to minimize the risk of damage from moisture. Silica Gel Bag (52) View As a rule of thumb, you can assume that pollen stored at room temperature in, say, a pantry, will keep for about 1-3 weeks. But suppose you want to keep it even longer. In that case, you can put it in the refrigerator or freezer. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to three months, and in the freezer for as much as twelve months. However, bags of silica gel are then essential, as moisture quickly builds up in these areas.
Use a suitable container to store pollen
So now you have a storage spot in mind for your pollen, but what are you going to store it in? Very easy really: an airtight container. Some like to use zip lock bags, but it’s also well worth investing in a container that can not only be locked properly, but can also keep out light. This way you avoid any kind of impact on the precious pollen inside. Pocket Stashbox iVAC (10) View
The link between pollen and breeding
As we have already mentioned, pollen can be used as a means of breeding weed. Whereas in nature pollen is dependent on chance and location, in a more controlled environment species can be crossed with it relatively easily and successfully. But why then is pollen essential for weed breeding? Essentially, there are two main methods of breeding. One is inbreeding, a breeding process involving both male and female plants of the same cannabis species. The two are crossed, leading to seeds that ultimately mimic the parent plants. The other method is outcrossing. This involves crossing a male and female plant from two different strains to create a brand new hybrid. Outcrossing has resulted in specially tuned strains, such as the autoflowering varieties we know and use today. Combining different strains can result in more potent strains with different effects and flavors, and different growing characteristics – just to name a few. On the other hand, it’s also entirely possible that you’ll create not-so-exciting combinations. The more experience you gain, the more you will learn about genetics and how to manipulate genes to produce special strains with specific characteristics. At its core, it’s pretty easy to breed with pollen cannabis. All you need is a male and female plant. Put these together in the same room when they flower and you obtain seeds. As long as pollen is produced and a female plant receives it, breeding can take place.
What do you need to pay attention to when breeding?
When breeding weed there are many things you need to take into account. Consider, for example, the strains, the desired characteristics and dominant and recessive cannabis genetics. If you understand all this properly, you can produce excellent quality ‘homebrew’ or ‘craft’ cannabis yourself. Let’s look at each point individually.
Which strains do you want to breed with?
Perhaps the most important thing to consider: what strains are you going to use? You can cross-breed almost any cannabis strain, and you’ll need both male and female plants. But which strains should you start with? While it can be tempting to choose two strains that you personally really like, combining them can also disappoint. Even if you cross two top strains, such as OG Kush and White Widow, there is no guarantee that the next generation will be good too. So think carefully when you choose your strains, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Who knows, the unlikeliest combination might end up being the best!
How do you select the best phenotypes?
Once you’ve bought and crossed your first batch of seeds, you’ll get a new batch when your plant has finished flowering. Although they come from the same strains, these seeds will have a different combination of genes, and will grow into unique phenotypes – in the same way that two people can have different children. But what should you look for in phenotypes? Whether you do it in your spare time or want to start your own seed bank, your goal as a breeder is to identify the attractive traits of your next generation of seeds and selectively breed them. This may sound like a daunting task, but it really doesn’t have to be. To do this, first decide which traits you want to breed on. These can be various properties such as bud production, certain aromas, flowering, color and resistance to pests and fungi. If it’s all still new to you, it may take a while to become familiar with these, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll instinctively know what to look for.
Understanding dominant and recessive cannabis genetics
It’s fairly easy to tell whether a trait is dominant or recessive. Dominant traits are more common in offspring than recessive traits. To keep track of which traits are dominant and recessive, it’s best to use a Punnett square. A Punnett-square shows you very clearly which genetic characteristics of your plants are dominant and recessive. Keep in mind that a trait that is not passed on from your parent plants to the next generation has not automatically disappeared from the gene pool. It’s still there, but it’s probably a recessive trait. However, if you continue to breed, this trait may emerge in future generations. As you gain more experience, you will know whether this is good or bad.
Which traits are worth breeding?
Which traits are worth breeding really depends on you and your preferences. However, there are some traits that are generally valued more by breeders and breeders than others. For a little inspiration, we’ve listed several commonly desired traits for you below.
- Short flowering A short bloom is always very popular when growing weed. After all, who doesn’t want to get their hands on tasty buds in no time? Strains with short flowering times (6-8 weeks) can even be harvested indoors three or four times a year, giving you a steady stream of cannabis.
- Small size Those who want controlled, discreet growing will undoubtedly opt for a smaller plant. Small cannabis plants are ideal for indoors. In contrast, tall, stretchy sativas can be extremely difficult to handle in tight spaces. So if you’re a serious indoor grower, it’s probably a better idea to grow smaller varieties.
- Autoflowering When growing cannabis, many like to take the path of least resistance. With little maintenance and no required changes in photoperiod to start flowering, autoflowering cannabis strains are perfect for just about anyone, experienced or not. Are the summers in your area short or do you have limited space and money? Growing autoflowers can be a great alternative then!
- Indica bud structure Indica strains naturally produce denser buds that look nicer than their looser, spiky sativa counterparts. Want buds that look like the ones you find on the shelves of a coffee shop? Then consider growing plants with indica genetics.
- Color The appearance of cannabis can sometimes be even more appealing than its aromas and flavor, and sometimes nothing is more interesting than an explosion of color. Cannabis plants can produce orange, red or even purple buds in addition to the classic green. Look for these traits in your offspring, and pick and cross the ones you like best.
- Flavor Nowadays, thanks to different terpene profiles, weed varieties are enriched with unique and delectable flavors. You can use breeding to obtain specific aromas and flavor notes.
- Harvest Who doesn’t want a huge harvest? You can increase the yield of future generations by selecting phenotypes with excellent production potential. Combine this with a fast-flowering plant and you will soon be heading for powerhouses of plants!
- Strength This can be tricky to figure out unless you have the right tools to measure THC and/or CBD levels. Still, it is certainly possible to select the strongest and/or most balanced versions of a strain to create the best cannabinoid profile.
- Resistance to pests and mold Some plants are naturally more resistant to pests, fungi, diseases and the like. Selecting phenotypes based on their resistance and resilience can be especially helpful in less ideal climates.
Ways of cannabis breeding
Now that you have a better idea of the traits you can retain, it’s time to look at the different types of cannabis breeding and how you can make the most of a strain. There are essentially three types of breeding; directed selection, compensatory mating and seed production. We’ll discuss these one by one and show you what they all mean.
Targeted selection focuses on a particular trait in order to preserve and reproduce it. For example, if you are interested in a particular flavor profile, you can select the right phenotype for it and then use it to breed a strain with a specific terpene profile. It’s essentially a way of purifying selection (the selective removal of undesirable plants), which ultimately allows you to get strains with exact specifications.
In this method, you focus on the best characteristics of two separate plants to create an entirely new strain. Ideally, this new strain compensates for any defects or limitations of its parents. For example, consider a combination of two strains, where one is tall and thin and the other is small and bushy. The result could then be a plant that represents the best characteristics of both: a cannabis plant that is relatively small, for example, but with a much more favorable spread of buds. Results may vary, though, so fine-tuning and multiple generations of breeding are undoubtedly necessary.
Seed production or ‘pollen chucking’ is not really considered a real breeding method. Essentially you are fertilizing female plants with pollen. As in nature, the pollen then interacts with the females to produce seeds. Whereas the other techniques focus a bit more on selecting characteristics, seed production is used for one purpose only: to obtain seeds.
How do you use pollen to breed weed?
You can use both pollen from a male plant and from an inverted female plant to brew cannabis. As mentioned earlier, you can achieve this through inbreeding and outbreeding. Suppose you have collected and stored pollen from a plant. In that case you can always take over the seed production and apply the pollen directly to a female plant. However, you can also put a male and female cannabis plant close to each other and create a kind of pollination tent with fans that mimic a natural outdoor environment, and let the pollen jump over that way. But you can also rub the pollen-covered leaves of a male plant over the pistils of a female. Whatever you choose, breading plants is actually relatively easy and really depends on your timing. Many growers wait until about day 24 of the flowering cycle before pollinating.
Strike up pollinating and breeding today
So there you have it: everything you need to know about using pollen and the different forms of cannabis breading. It may seem like a lot at first, especially if you don’t have much growing experience. However, don’t let this put you off. It really is a matter of practice, trial and error, and most importantly learning on the job. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when it comes to producing cannabis strains. You’ll find that your experience and confidence will grow naturally over time.