Cannabis Seed Development

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Breeders focus on plant characteristics when breeding cannabis seeds such as their potency, flavor, yield, smell, resistance to pests, color, growth stature and other characteristics. Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycle will dictate when to prune, train, and harvest your plants. Learn more about marijuana growth stages today. Have you ever heard of viviparity? This phenomenon, seemingly uncommon in plants, is actually more widespread than it appears, depending on the enviro

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Breeding Cannabis Seeds

Step #1 For Cannabis Seeds

You will want to begin by choosing parents for breeding cannabis seeds. Selecting the female plants for breeding is much easier than selecting male plants.

Breeders focus on plant characteristics such as their potency, flavor, yield, smell, resistance to pests, color, growth stature and other characteristics when choosing a female to breed cannabis seeds.

Choosing male plants is not easy since males don’t reveal their characteristics like females do. Some breeders will rub their fingers on the male plants stem to be able to better smell their resinous odor. The best way to test for male characteristics is by a progeny test where the male pollen is harvested and then placed on certain plants.

These plants will create seeds and the next season those seeds are planted then grow up to show off their characteristics. Once a male plant is selected for breeding the other male plants are then cut down and destroyed.

Step #2 Is Collecting Pollen

You will collect pollen from the male plant that you have chosen and strip away all extra male branches to guard against random pollination then isolate the male as soon as anthers show. Before the anther’s open, you will place a plastic bag over the branch and tie it to prevent it from falling.

You will keep the bag over the branch for several days to collect pollen then carefully remove the branch and bag so pollen does not escape from the bag.

Step #3 Storing Cannabis Seeds’ Pollen

You can now either store the male pollen indoors since pollen in a natural condition in the wild will not last for long. Be sure that the storage container that the pollen is stored at low temperatures and moisture since as high temperatures, as well as humidity, will destroy pollen very quickly.

Pollen that is harvested can be stored for several months when it is stored in a freezer. To store pollen in the freezer you will first need to use a fine screen to filter out the plant leaf matter from the anthers that may have fallen into the bag.

If these are not removed it can contaminate the pollen and cause it to spoil. Before you filter the plant material you will want to lay down some wax paper or place a plate that is clean to capture the falling pollen.

You can then place the pollen in a sterile container, tube or sealed bag to make sure that the pollen for cannabis seeds is clean and sterile. When you are freezing the harvested pollen you will not want to continually freeze and thaw it out since this will diminish the viability of the pollen. Use only what is needed and leave the rest frozen.

Step #4 Using Pollen For Cannabis Seeds

Pollination occurs when male pollen comes into contact with the female pistil. Depending on which plant variety you choose to breed the female flowers will be ready to be pollinated within two (2) to twelve (12) weeks after the flowering cycle has been introduced to the plants.

The more pistils that are visible when pollinating then more cannabis seeds will be created. Female pistils that are turgid and most often white or off-white are the best to be pollinated.

Any pistils that are rust- or brown-color are beyond the point that you can fertilize. To pollinate a female plant, you will first cover the female branch with a pollen-filled bag then briefly shake the bag to make sure the pollen makes contact with the female pistils.

You can leave the bag over the branch for two (2) days to ensure pollination occurs. Many times cannabis breeders will contain the male pollen and pollinated-female plants in a separate room to prevent other cannabis plants from being fertilized.

After a few days in the pollination room, the female plant is sprayed with water to destroy the pollen that remains on the plant before the female plant is moved back into the flowering room. This is to prevent any remaining pollen from fertilizing other plants.

Also be sure to spray any room that you have allowed for pollination to occur. Another way to pollinate a female plant is to use a small paintbrush to ‘paint’ pollen onto the pistils for cannabis seeds. You will simply dip the paintbrush into a container of pollen and gently brush the pollen onto a female plant’s flowers.

Be sure that all fans are off to prevent the pollen from being blown around the room. This method is perfect for growers who want to have cannabis seeds created on only a few branches and leave the rest of the female flowers sinsemilla.

After a plant is fertilized the cannabis seeds will be ripe in about six (6) weeks but could be ready earlier. When seeds are mature they will split the calyxes open and make the cannabis seeds visible.

The seeds that are most ripe are seeds that have a dark brown or grey color and well-mottled (tiger striped) and will set loosely within the calyx. Seeds that are not viable and immature will be green, yellow or white in color as well as will be in sealed calyxes.

If you have seeds that are not mature by the end of the plants life-cycle then you can eat the immature cannabis seeds. Plants that are sativa dominant tend to allow seeds to fall from their small, lightly packed buds and while indica dominant plant seeds tend to stay within the large, densely packed buds.

Seeds are harvested from buds by either manually finger-picking each of the seeds out or by crushing the buds to separate the bud from all seeds. Seeds are often tested for their viability with a simple press between your thumb and index finger to test the seeds firmness.

If the seed splits open with this test it means that the seed is not viable or immature. If the seed is very firm then those cannabis seeds will tend to be viable.

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Once seeds have broken the calyx then they are ready to plant immediately, if you choose to do so. Otherwise, the seeds may fall off the plant and germinate below the plant.

These ideas and methods are only a guideline for small-scale cannabis seed production. If you plan on producing massive amounts of seeds you will need to adjust what is done to be effective.

Many breeders will clone a male plant so they have multiple-males within a very large room that are able to pollinate many, many females. It all depends on what you plan on doing.

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4 stages of marijuana plant growth

Cannabis plants go through a series of stages as they grow and mature, and those different growth stages call for different amounts of light, nutrients, and water.

It’s important to know these stages and how long each lasts to know what the plant needs and when. Knowing where your cannabis plants are in their life cycles will dictate when to prune, train, and trellis your plants, and when to harvest.

How long does it take to grow a marijuana plant?

Generally speaking, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks, or about 3-8 months, to grow a weed plant from seed to harvest. It’ll be quicker if you start with a clone or an autoflower seed.

The biggest variability in how long a marijuana plant takes to grow will happen in the vegetative stage—after the seedling phase and before flowering.

If you’re growing indoors, you can force a weed plant to flower after only a few weeks when it’s small or after several weeks when it’s big.

When growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in the fall for plants to flower, and then to harvest.

However, one way outdoor growers can control the flowering cycle is by using light deprivation techniques.

What are a weed plant’s growth stages?

The growth stages of marijuana can be broken down into four primary stages from seed to harvest:

  • Germination (3-10 days)
  • Seedling (2-3 weeks)
  • Vegetative (3-16 weeks)
  • Flowering (8-11 weeks)

Cannabis seed germination

Seed germination length: 3-10 days

Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

The first marijuana plant stage begins with the seed. A cannabis seed should feel hard and dry, and be light- to dark-brown in color. An undeveloped seed is generally squishy and green or white in color and likely won’t germinate.

Once your seed has germinated, or sprouted, it’s ready to be placed in a growing medium, like soil. The tap root will drive down while the stem of the seedling will grow upward.

Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow out from the stem as the plant unfolds from the protective casing of the seed. These initial leaves are responsible for taking in sunlight so the plant can grow healthy and stable.

As roots develop, the stalk will rise and you’ll begin to see the first iconic fan leaves grow, at which point your cannabis plant can be considered a seedling.

Can you speed up the germination process?

No. Cannabis seeds are delicate and don’t like to be moved around. They need a warm environment that doesn’t fluctuate in temperature, and not too much water. Once you put them in soil, we recommend leaving them be.

Quality seeds typically have high germination rates, but you may get some duds that don’t sprout. Let them do their thing; helping them along can decrease their chance of survival.

Seedling stage in cannabis plants

Seedling stage length: 2-3 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

When your marijuana plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing the traditional cannabis fan leaves. As a sprout, the seed will initially produce leaves with only one ridged blade.

Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades, or “fingers” (3, 5, 7, etc.). A mature cannabis plant will have between 5 or 7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more.

Cannabis plants are considered seedlings until they begin to develop leaves with the full number of blades on new fan leaves. A healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color.

Be careful to not overwater the plant in its seedling stage—its roots are so small, it doesn’t need much water to thrive.

At this stage, the plant is vulnerable to disease and mold. Keep its environment clean and monitor excess moisture. Be sure to give it plenty of light.

Even if growing outdoors, a lot of growers will start their seeds inside under an artificial light to help them through this delicate stage of marijuana growth.

If you buy a clone from a grower or breeder it will be a seedling, so you can skip the seed germination phase.

Vegetative stage in cannabis plants

Vegetative stage length: 3-16 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 18 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off, and it typically lasts 3-16 weeks. At this point, you’ve transplanted your plant into a larger pot and the roots and foliage are developing rapidly. This is also the time to begin topping or training your plants.

Be mindful to increase your watering as the plant develops. When it’s young, your plant will need water close to the stalk, but as it grows the roots will also grow outward, so start watering further away from the stalk in the soil so roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently.

Vegetative plants appreciate healthy soil with nutrients. Feed them with a high level of nitrogen at this stage.

Cannabis plant flowering stage

Flowering stage length: 8-11 weeks

Marijuana light cycle: 12 hours a day indoors; full, direct sun 6 hours a day outdoors

The flowering stage is the final stage of growth for a cannabis plant. This is when plants start to develop resinous buds and your hard work will be realized. Most strains flower in 8-9 weeks, but some can take even longer, especially some sativas.

Outdoors, flowering occurs naturally when the plant receives less light each day as summer turns into fall.

Indoor growers can trigger the flowering cycle by reducing the amount of light marijuana plants receive from 18 to 12 hours a day.

There are three subphases of the flowering stage:

  • Flower initiation (week 1-3): The plant will continue to grow and females will develop pre-flowers—pistils, or white hairs, will grow out, which are the beginnings of buds.
  • Mid-flowering (week 4-5): The plant itself will stop growing and buds will start fattening up.
  • Late flowering/ripening (week 6 and on): Trichome density will increase and plants will get very sticky; keep an eye on the color of the pistils to tell when to harvest.

There are a number of changes to consider once plants go from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage:

  • Don’t prune when plants are flowering, as it can upset their hormones
  • Plants should be trellised or scrogged so buds will be supported as they develop and air can flow through plants
  • Consider giving plants bloom or phosphorus nutrients

What does the pre-flower stage look like?

Pre-flowers are the beginnings of cannabis plant sex organs. If you’re growing regular seeds, you’ll likely have a mix of male and female plants and will need to determine the sex of your plants to discard the males. It’s imperative to separate males so they don’t pollinate the females.

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Pre-flowers appear at the nodes of the plant, where a branch grows out of the main stalk. Females will develop an oval-shaped bract with hairs or pistils sticking out, while males will develop round pollen sacs.

Learn more about pre-flowers and cannabis plant sexing in our anatomy article.

How to tell when a cannabis plant is ready to bloom

When growing outdoors, weed plants will start flowering, or blooming, after the summer solstice, when the daily amount of light starts to decrease. Plants will start developing pre-flowers, as mentioned above, telling you that flowering has initiated.

When growing indoors, growers make the decision to force blooming or “flip” plants into flower by cutting off the amount of artificial light they receive.

What to do when cannabis plants flower early or late

The amount of time it takes a plant to finish, or be done flowering and ready for harvest, will depend on what strain it is. Typically, indicas finish flowering early and sativas finish flowering late.

Note information from the breeder when you buy seeds to grow to get a sense of how long it takes to flower. You may have to harvest some plants early and some late depending on their finish times.

For late-flowering strains, keep an eye on the weather and make sure cold weather doesn’t ruin your plants before they finish.

When do buds grow the most?

Buds typically grow the most toward the end of the flowering life cycle. You probably won’t notice much budding out at the beginning of the flowering stage, and it will slow down toward the end of the cycle, when buds become fully formed.

Once buds have reached full maturation, it’s time to harvest your marijuana. How long it takes to harvest buds depends on many factors, including harvesting methods and how many plants you harvest.

How long can a marijuana plant live?

Weed plants are annuals, meaning they grow and live for one season and then die. Wild cannabis plants grow seeds and drop them when they die, which will grow into new plants the following year.

When harvesting, plants are cut down and die in order to get their buds. New seeds need to be planted in order to grow more plants.

If left unharvested, weed plants will eventually wither and rot within a few months after the peak flowering phase.

When should you grow marijuana?

If you’re growing outdoors in the Northern Hemisphere, growers usually get their seeds between February and April and start germinating seeds by the end of April.

Many start growing seedlings inside in a more controlled environment because seedlings are more delicate, and then put the seedlings in the ground outside once they’re a little bigger and the weather is warmer.

If you’re growing clones or autoflowers, you have a grace period of another month or so. Plants usually need to be outside, in the ground, by the end of June.

Harvesting happens sometime between September and November. This depends on your local climate, as well as the weather that particular year—one year it could be the end of September, the next, end of October; growers in the Pacific Northwest will have to pull down their crops earlier than those in Northern California because of cold weather.

If you’re growing weed indoors, you can grow whenever you like. Keep in mind that the outside environment will affect your grow space—you may need to add heaters in the winter or fans and ACs in the summer.

Other than that, you can start seeds whenever you like and flip them into flower whenever you like, depending on how big you want the plants.

Important dates for growing marijuana outdoors

Many growers begin germinating seeds as early as February and March in order to have big plants come harvest time, but the Spring Equinox is a good reminder that it’s time to kick off the outdoor growing process and start germinating your seeds if you haven’t already.

Many farmers wait until after Mother’s Day in May to put their plants outside. Just make sure all of your plants are outside by the Summer Solstice at the latest.

The weather will start to turn and the sun will begin descending in the sky as your plants fatten up with sweet, sticky buds. It might be tempting, but the Fall Equinox is about when to start harvesting. It’ll depends on your climate and the year—it could happen a little before or after.

Everything should be cleaned up, dried, and curing by Thanksgiving, and in some places, even by Halloween.

As winter approaches, it’s prime time to make your own cannabutter, topicals, or tinctures with all that trim from the harvest. Kick your feet up, relax, and hunker down for the cold, it’s been a long growing season!

Notes on marijuana growth phases

We can’t stress enough that the timeframes in the above graphic are ranges of time for the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll need to adjust them based on your specific region and local weather and climate.

Be sure to keep a grow journal to track the progress of your plants. Looking back on your notes will help you learn from mistakes and maximize the quality and quantity of your buds next year.

Take meticulous notes on when and how you perform each step, noting:

  • Weather
  • How much water you give plants, and at what intervals
  • Nutrient amounts
  • When you top and prune

Pictures will also give you a better sense of how your plants look along the way.

Viviparity or premature germination of cannabis seeds

Viviparity may be a strange-sounding word, but it actually describes one of the best-known phenomena among mammals (and other species), that of embryos developing inside the mother’s body until the moment of birth, at which point they are already prepared to survive in the outside world. This viviparity, which is so familiar to us humans, is not so frequently found in the plant kingdom, where the embryos are released by the mother plant as a seed and will depend exclusively on the environment to develop and grow.

However, viviparity can also occur in some plants and sometimes, the seed that would normally wait to be released begins to grow in the mother’s body and emerges to the surface like an alien unleashed. The result? Plants that seem like something from a horror movie but that are, in reality, premature mothers.

Plants with a tendency to viviparity

Viviparity in plants is not common, but there are some exceptions. In the plant kingdom, several species with a tendency to viviparity have been documented, such as:

  • Red Mangrove.
  • Plants growing in flooded areas.
  • Corn.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Wheat.
  • Rice.

For example, some species of mangroves grow on sediments that are saturated with water by the tides, in addition to having high concentrations of salts and being poor in oxygen, meaning that viviparity gives these species a greater probability of successfully rooting in the harsh substrate and to be able to survive to develop and form mangroves.

Red mangroves (and other mangroves) are viviparous: the seed germinates while the fruit is still attached to the branches; in addition, the mother will continue to nurture it until it reaches 40 cm in length

Viviparity can also occur in common fruits, such as tomatoes or peppers. The seeds contain a hormone that suppresses the germination process. This is a necessity, as it prevents seeds from germinating when conditions are not favourable and losing the opportunity to grow into plants.

But sometimes this hormone runs out, for example when a tomato sits on the greengrocer’s shelf for too long. And sometimes the hormone can be tricked into thinking the conditions are right, especially if the conditions are hot and humid. This can happen in ears of corn that experience a lot of rain and collect water inside their husks; or on fruits that are not harvested and consumed immediately during a hot, humid summer.

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Viviparity often looks like a maggot infestation, which is bad if you want to sell your fruit. Otherwise, it’s perfectly harmless.

Apart from the instances of a mutant-looking tomato or corn on the supermarket shelf, it is believed that 89% of viviparous plant species grow in humid forests or in flooded environments and many are native to the tropics. Environmental conditions, therefore, have a lot to do with the causes of viviparity, as we explain below.

What causes viviparity in plants?

Experts affirm that viviparity arises as a response to factors that are detrimental to the development of embryos in the soil:

  • Extreme temperatures.
  • Environmental unpredictability.
  • Too-dry environments.
  • Seed vulnerability to predation.
  • Microbial attacks.

In addition to these factors, some studies point to a common cause in plant species that tend to display viviparity: an intolerance to seed desiccation, a key process in the formation of some seeds.

These aren’t mutant strawberries, it is just viviparity that gives them this strange appearance

Viviparity and seed dormancy

The seeds of many species within the plant kingdom are capable of preserving their germinative power for years. This state of metabolic inactivity corresponds to the state of dormancy (or latency) and allows us to collect seeds, package them and store them for a time without fear of them losing their viability or capacity to germinate. Desiccation is a key prerequisite to these seeds entering a dormant state so that they will only germinate in the soil when the environmental conditions are suitable.

However, this process does not occur in viviparous plants, thus allowing plant species from humid or flooded environments, where their seeds are unable to dry out, to generate healthy embryos. As a consequence, their seeds do not enter a state of dormancy and this is why they germinate in the mother’s body once the embryo has formed. In this way, viviparity arises from an environmental adaptation for many plants. But this is not the only reason for viviparity in the plant world.

Mutant plants: another cause of viviparity

Although external factors such as the abundance of water can induce viviparity in some plant species, sometimes genetics is the principal cause of this phenomenon. Genetic mutations in tomato, corn and wheat plants can result in viviparous specimens due to an alteration in their production of phytohormones or a reduction in sensitivity to the phytohormones responsible for inducing the state of dormancy.

Viviparity or premature germination of seeds is a physiological phenomenon present in some cultivated species, such as corn

Viviparity, evolutionary advantage or not?

After everything is said and done, all living beings have the same mission to follow an evolutionary strategy with the aim of perpetuating ourselves as a species. For this reason, many experts argue about the usefulness of viviparity in plants. The arguments against it claim that this phenomenon limits the dispersal capacity of individuals, that when they germinate in the mother plant they will no longer spread to new habitats, meaning that the expansion of the species will be very limited. If something happened to that land where all the plants grow or if the environmental conditions changed, all the specimens of that species would perish and it would end up disappearing.

However, on the list of “pros”, viviparity is a reproductive strategy that favours plants grown in humid environments and also in difficult conditions, in which a developing plant would stand a better chance to establish itself than a seed with its shell.

Alpine poa (Pooideae) is only viviparous when growing with a combination of long days and cool temperatures, otherwise it produces normal seeds

Viviparity in cannabis

Viviparity in cannabis is not a common phenomenon, although it can occur under certain environmental conditions. And when the objective of the crop is not to produce flowers but seeds, the grower or the breeder is in charge of pollinating the flowers of the females that will develop these seeds. Cannabis seed production can be done both indoors and outdoors (and also in greenhouses). In both cases, something similar to viviparity can occur if the environmental factors favour it.

How? Very simple: when the flowers of the female cannabis plant are pollinated, each stigma (the hairs on the buds, the gateway for pollen to enter the plant) that has been fertilised will cause a seed to form inside the pistil. After a few weeks (usually at least four) it may happen that some seeds are fully formed while others still need a few more days to fully mature.

If the cannabis plants are growing in an environment that is too humid, the fully mature seeds start to germinate inside the flower of the mother. In some cases, these seedlings will fall to the ground and begin to develop by rooting in the substrate; while others will develop within the cannabis flower until they die.

Viviparity in cannabis: the climate is so wet in eastern Australia that the seeds sprout before you can harvest them

How do we prevent viviparity in cannabis?

As we already mentioned, when the goal of cultivation is the production of cannabis seeds, viviparity is something that we will definitely want to avoid. For this reason, it is necessary to pay attention to the relative humidity levels of the room or grow tent (in the case of indoor cultivation) and try to keep them ideally below 50% and, above all, ensure that they do not exceed 60%.

This can be a challenge, especially in the flowering phase of the plants, as the plants are fully developed and bushier, so more transpiration occurs, increasing the relative humidity. To reduce humidity levels in indoor crops and prevent seeds from germinating before time, it is recommended to use dehumidifiers.

In outdoor crops, the environmental humidity will depend on the climate of the area, therefore, it is important to know when the autumn rains usually arrive to avoid them at all costs. If the seed-bearing buds get too wet or rained upon directly, the chances of viviparity are high. Therefore, choosing fast-finishing genetics for cold climates, such as those offered by the Early or Fast varieties, can be very useful to prevent this from happening.

These genetics offer all the advantages of feminised or regular strains, reducing their flowering period by a couple of weeks; this means that they will be ready to harvest earlier, which is a great advantage for growers who live in regions with cold climates and short summers, or for those who want to make the maximum number of harvests per year.

  • Viviparidad en Goeppertia inocephala (Marantaceae). María Del Pilar Sepúlveda-Nieto, Ángela María Morales Trujillo, Liliana Katinas.
  • The Ecology and Physiology of Viviparous and Recalcitrant Seeds. Elizabeth J. Farnsworth.

The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.

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