Demand for quality cannabis strains worldwide has fuelled enormous growth in experimentation among breeders. To such an extent that the overwhelming majority of cannabis strains on today’s commercial market are hybrids. In this introductory guide, we’ll be taking a look at how hybrid cannabis strains are engineered, and what makes them so successful in recreational and medicinal cannabis circles alike.
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What Are Hybrid Cannabis Strains?
As the name suggests, hybrid cannabis strainscannabis. Pure cannabis strains still exist, but are massively outnumbered by commercial hybrids. The commercialisation of cannabis has accelerated the genetic experimentation and new strain development tenfold.
Contrary to popular belief, cannabis hybrids are rarely produced simply by chance. Instead, hybrid cannabis is a planned and strategic attempt by the respective engineer to combine the benefits and characteristics of multiple strains into one ‘best-of-all-worlds’ hybrid. The intention may be to reduce flowering times, improve THC production or provide a specific therapeutic effect when consumed. In any case, the overwhelming majority of hybrid cannabis strains are engineered with a specific objective in mind.
The Different Types of Hybrid Strains
It’s often assumed that all hybrid strains contain both Indica and Sativa genetics. In reality, this isn’t always the case. Sativa x Sativa hybrids combine the genetics of at least two Sativa strains, while Indica x Indica hybrids are engineered solely with Indica genetics.
Where Indica and Sativa genetics are brought together, the resulting hybrid may be balanced or Indica/Sativa dominant. Ratios of Indica to Sativa genetics (and vice versa) are anything from 50/50 to 90/10 or higher. Again, the Sativa to Indica ratio will be determined by the intentions of the breeder for the final product.
Why Hybrid Strains Are Produced
Combining the genetics of multipleCannabis strains opens the door to limitless possibilities. Both in terms of the properties of the plants themselves and the effects of their consumption, cannabis engineers can influence almost every aspect of the resulting hybrid. Nevertheless, the vast majority of hybrid strains are created with one of the following outcomes in mind:
Specific Cannabinoid Concentrations
The potency and prevalence of the cannabinoids in any given strain will determine its effects when consumed. This enables cannabis engineers to meticulously control the nature and the strength of the resulting strain’s high. If a hybrid is being engineered to deliver a near-narcotic body stone, an Indica-heavy hybrid with a High THC content will get the job done. If it’s all about staying energised and motivated with an enjoyable daytime smoke, a Sativa-dominant hybrid with a lower THC content could work.
Cannabis cross-breeding also allows for the precise control of THC to CBD ratios. Today, a growing audience of medical cannabis users is erring towards non-psychoactive strains with high CBD concentrations and next to no THC. Breeders respond accordingly with new CBD-heavy strains. Whatever the requirements of the end-user, it can be achieved through careful cross-breeding.
It’s also possible to create cannabis hybrids to accommodate restrictive grow spaces. The strategic combination of genetics allow for Sativa hybrids to be grown in compact indoor environments, rather than requiring limitless vertical space outdoors. Height, width, density, flower production and so on - all characteristics that can be controlled with expert engineering.
Autoflowering Cannabis Strains
The introduction of ruderalis genetics to a hybrid strain’s composition can trigger the resulting plant’s flowering stage at a predetermined time.
Auto-flowering cannabis strains
automatically begin blooming after a specific number of weeks, irrespective of light/dark cycles at the time.
Hybrid cannabis strains can also be engineered to produce as much resin as possible. Pure Sativa specimens typically produce less resin than their Indica cousins - an imbalance that can be corrected through strategic breeding.
Fragrance and Flavour
The unique flavour and fragrance profile of any given cannabis strain is where much of the enjoyment lies. Cross-breeding enables cannabis cultivators to create the most aromatic and flavourful specimens imaginable, focusing their efforts heavily on terpenes and flavonoids.
Some strains produce generous yields of moderate-quality cannabis, while others produce top-shelf bud in more limited quantities. Combine the genetics of both and the result could be a heavy-yielding hybrid that also produces the most potent pot with flawless consistency.
Disease and Pest Resistance
Some cannabis strains are naturally more resistant to disease and pest infestation than others. These protective properties can be effectively ported over to just about any other cannabis strain, by combining their genetics to produce a new hybrid.
Growing Hybrid Cannabis Strains
The commercial cannabis market is populated primarily by hybrid strains - many thousands of them. In terms of cultivation, there’s limitless room for experimentation. As hybrid strains can be engineered to suit every possible requirement and preference, there’s a strain out there for every grow space and experience level.
With limited indoor space to play with, it’s worth sticking with Indica-heavy hybrids that produce short, stout and sturdy plants. Pest and disease resistance should also be taken into account, if you’re new to home growing. For the fastest possible results, autoflowering strains take some beating. Flowering times as brief as eight weeks ensure your crop is ready to harvest in no time at all.
The Importance of Seed Quality
Irrespective of the nature of the hybrid you intend to grow, seed quality will impact every aspect of your plants’ performance and output. Just as soon as seeds are made commercially available, quality begins to fluctuate from one seller to the next.
For the easiest ride and to ensure the best possible result, avoid the temptation to cut corners on seed quality to save money. Doing so only stands to cause complications further down the line.