To understand the general principles behind breeding different strains of Medical Marijuana you first need to be familiar with some basic terms related to plant genetics. A plant’s genotype is the genetic code and chromosomal make up of a specific plant. A plant’s phenotype is the size, shape, structure, and overall appearance of the plant. The genotype (the actual genetic code of a particular marijuana strain) and it’s growing environment are what determines the phenotype (the size and potency of the buds produced).
In other to maximize the amount of bud produced by a marijuana plant and its potency you must choose the proper strain and know the best growing environment for this particular strain. A common misnomer is that all marijuana strains will thrive in the same growing environment. This is not true. Different strains grow better at different temperatures and some strains require more light, water, or nutrients than other strains. Two individual plants of the exact same strain can grow vastly different when raised in different environments.
The available nutrients, hours of sunlight, and other growing conditions are referred to as environmental triggers.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Growing
With growing Medical Marijuana, there is a distinct difference between indoor and outdoor growing environments.
Indoor growing environments allow you to have better control of the environment factors. You can easily raise or lower the temperature, humidity, air circulation, or the amount of water your plant receives. You can also control the amount and length of time that a plant receives light and thus shorten or lengthen the growth period. The buds produced from indoor plants are usually more densely packed, more potent, and higher quality than buds grown outdoors.
Outdoor growing environments usually allow you to grow more plants which are often larger in size than comparable indoor plants. However the buds produced by these plants tend to be less potent.
There are three separate subspecies of the genus Cannabis known as Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis.
Cannabis Sativa are characterized by long thin flowers and spiky leaves. They originate from equatorial regions where the growing season is hotter. They are not generally used for outdoor cultivation in colder climates, although some hybrids can produce good yields in such conditions. Cannabis sativas have more of a high than Cannabis Indica buds.
Cannabis Indica originated in the Hindu-Kush areas of Central Asia, where the weather is changeable and growing conditions can be harsh. Indica plants are generally much shorter than Sativa plants, only about three to five feet tall. They have fewer and shorter branches than Sativa, the longer of which are lower on the plant, with much wider leaflets. They also mature earlier and more rapidly than Sativa. Cannabis Indica varieties are ideal for indoor and outdoor cultivation in cooler climates.
Cannabis Ruderalis is a variety of cannabis that grows wild in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia. It is characterized by its early flowering, with some plants starting irrespective of the photo-period. Ruderalis are the shortest, least bushy, and fastest maturing of the three. Cannabis Ruderalis is ideal for cultivation in cooler climates and areas where conditions are harsh. There are Dutch hybrid varieties available that combine Cannabis Ruderalis and Cannabis Indica.
The end of the localized strains Prior to the late 1960’s, virtually all cannabis plants were grown outdoors. The marijuana strains available in a particular geographic location were dictated by which strains grew well in that particular climate or environment. So you were limited to the strains which grew well in your particular area. Different places produced different types of buds that were unique and their quality varied depending on the region. Some areas produced better buds than others.
The introduction of indoor growing systems have allowed growers to control their growing environment regardless of their local climate or outdoor conditions. This has allowed many common and popular strains of marijuana to be grown worldwide using the same types of indoor growing systems. People are now able to transfer and grow the exact same strains of marijuana seeds or clones in different climatic locations around the world.
Today the quality of the buds available in a particular area are more based on the laws regarding the cultivation of marijuana than the outdoor growing environments. However, geographic locations that are optimal for outdoor cultivation usually still have a larger supply of high quality buds. For example, areas such as Humboldt or Mendocino counties in Northern California have more good bud than the rural counties surrounding Los Angeles which are much less optimal places to grow marijuana outdoors. States with higher cool mountainous forests almost always have better buds than lower elevation states with hotter climates.
The road to blandness
As cloning and HID lighting became popular, it became fairly clear that it is really difficult to produce commercial size yields by growing cloned Sativa plants indoors. These Sativa varieties grow much better outdoors on a really large field sized crop scale. The fast maturing, dense bud structure of the easy-to-grow Indica soon dominated the indoor growing scene.
Indica strains also have a true breeding “dioecious” nature, meaning that individual plants tend to be male or female only, but not both. In contrast, many Sativa strains show hermaphroditic tendencies indoors, with male and female flowers on the same plant. (It is my opinion that wild Sativa strains of cannabis are primarily true breeding hermaphroditic varieties.)
The use of indoor growing systems to produce high quality buds has caused the Indica varieties to become more popular and in higher demand than its Sativa counterparts. Many growers and cloners experimented with Sativa/Indica crosses.
These Sativa/Indica crosses have the best of both worlds: the good Sativa flavor and the cleaner high associated with the Indica bud structure. However this desirability only lasts for a few generations of breeding. Unless a person is breeding for a very specific trait, crosses seven generations and beyond the original P1 Indica/Sativa cross lose much of their original charm and desirability. Cloning, however, helps to extend a plant’s potential.
The Ruderalis Myth
As indoor growers were attempting to improve the genetic lines of their marijuana strains through breeding, another interesting phenomenon occurred: Ruderalis.
There is a wild variety identified as Ruderalis in Russia (”Ruderalis” is supposedly Russian for “by the side of the road”) that grows very short and matures very fast. I really doubt that someone actually went to Russia to collect seeds of this variety to use for breeding. But if they actually did go all the way to Russia to find, collect and smuggle these “rudy” seeds back to the United States, I would feel sorry for their waste of time and effort because they could have gotten the same worthless stains of seeds in Minnesota, Saskatchewan or Manitoba in Canada with much less hassle. These varieties grow well in colder environments, have a shorter growing time (due to the shorter summer season), and but have much smaller low quality yields which taste awful and have terrible highs.
After the Indica varieties arrived in the US and became incorporated into the gene pool, many breeders began to cross the earliest maturing individuals with each other in hopes of shortening the maturation cycle. One particular Indica strain improved consistently over time and this genetically enhanced strain became known as American Ruderalis. This strain had a quick growing pattern similar to the Russian Ruderalis, but it produced higher quality more potent buds and was totally genetically unrelated to Russian Ruderalis. High Times accidentally named this particular Indica strain as Ruderalis after falsely identifying this strain as belonging to the Ruderalis family.
Therefore be sure that you are dealing with good, genetically engineered American Ruderalis strain and not the true Russian Ruderalis which is tolerant to cold, harsh climates, but has a low-yield and bad results.
The same applies to many of the Indica dominant varieties available today. Breeders selecting for early, fast flowering or fast growth often miss out on some of the finer and more subtle characteristics available from crossing certain genotypes. My advice to breeders is to wait until the finished product is suitably tested before coming to any conclusions regarding desirable candidates for future breeding consideration.
The malleability of phenotypic expression among the Sativa/Indica crosses must also be noted. The variability of phenotypic expression among the f2 generation of a truly polar (pure Sativa/pure Indica) P1 cross is quite phenomenal. The second generation f2 crosses will exhibit the full spectrum of possibilities between the original parents – extreme Indica, extreme Sativa, and everything in between.
However, regardless of any particular phenotype selected from among this given f2 cross, future generations may drift radically. Depending on the presence (or lack) of a number of environmental triggers, an f2 Indica phenotype may be coaxed more toward Sativa traits, or an f2 Sativa phenotype may be coaxed more toward Indica expression. The key is environmental conditions.
This is what distinguishes the true breeding, ancient acclimated, region of origin varieties – especially the tropical and equatorial Sativa – from the crosses that have happened since. The ancient specimens have a much narrower genotype range, and therefore a more specific phenotype than their contemporary crosses despite environmental conditions. It is up to future adventurers to provide the best possible environmental considerations, along with the best possible genetic considerations, in order to resurrect the legendary happy flowers of yore.
After many years of first-hand experience breeding marijuana indoors as well as outdoors, I am of the opinion that the two most influential factors involving phenotypic variation and expression among current indoor herb breeding projects are the photoperiod (hours of light per day) and the angle of light in relationship to the growing plant. Specifically, I find the single most powerful influence to the Indica dominant phenotype is the traditional 18/6 veggie cycle and 12/12 flowering cycle. The 18/6 veggie and 12/12 flower cycle is an attempt, however poor, to mimic the Indica-producing photoperiod. It is my belief that this light cycle strongly influences for Indica phenotypic expression.
Sativa phenotype characteristics will manifest under a more equatorial photoperiod, closer to a 13/11 veggie cycle and an 11/13 flower cycle. This is the light timing range to use to elicit more Sativa dominant expression from your plants.
As for the exact photoperiod formula that I incorporate into my growing/breeding regime, this will presently remain a trade secret. My advice is to experiment with different photoperiods, keep good notes and pay attention. Avoid the 18/6 and 12/12 photoperiods, while tweaking the times a bit differently with each breeding cycle until more desirable results in the finished product and their offspring are noted. Here is a hint: work in half-hour increments or a little less.
Angle of Light
Angle of light simply refers to the physical angle of light source the plant is dependent upon for growth. Perhaps the greatest difference between indoor and outdoor environments has to do with the angle of light received by the plant. This is also one of the greatest seasonal differences between the Sativa and Indica producing regions.
Outdoors, the main light source is the Sun, with minor influence coming from nearby reflective surfaces. As a plant grows taller and broader outdoors, that angle of light from the sun changes very little in relationship to the growing plant.
Seasonal changes in angle of light increase the further away from the equator one gets. At the equator there is the least amount of seasonal change in angle of light, only about 20°, whereas at the 45th parallel that change is as great as 45°. At the 45th latitude, the Summer Sun is high in the sky while during early Spring and late Fall the sunlight comes from much lower in the sky. The farther one goes from the equator, the greater the difference in seasonal changes regarding angle of light.
Indoors, the lights typically range from a few inches to several feet from the plant. As the plant grows taller, its physical relationship to the bulb’s angle of light changes considerably. Most indoor grow rooms have relatively low ceilings, therefore, raising the bulbs may maintain a similar angle of light early on, but eventually the angle changes. The same differences may be noted among plants directly below the bulb and the plants off to the side of the room farther away from the bulb.
Circular light shuttles tend to emulate the arctic summer and create a confusing signal completely unknown to the equatorial Sativa. Straight-track overhead light shuttles are more conducive to inducing the Sativa phenotype.
Aromatics and flavors
Many indoor growers try to get their budding plants as close to the light source as possible. Though this may increase bulk production of both bud and trichome, I find that this practice tends to destroy many of the finer aromatic qualities of the herb. Buds too close to the light tend to express nothing beyond the lower lemon/lime aromas of the fruity spectrum. Sometimes the aroma is no better than a strong chemical/astringent odor and flavor, especially those under High Pressure Sodium light systems. The finer berry flavors tend to favor more distance from the bulb, and will manifest more strongly under High Ultraviolet Metal Halide light systems, especially during the latter stages of flowering.
Something akin to a gymnasium building with high ceilings and super 5000W lights hung far from the growing plants, set at a Sativa-tweaked photoperiod, would be the ultimate indoor grow-op to coax Sativa phenotypes.
The Great Outdoors
Nothing will ever rival the great outdoors for ultra-high volume cannabis production. With growing outdoors you need to work with seeds that will grow well in the geographic area and the surrounding growing environment. Some strains thrive better in areas than others. Some strains grow better outdoors in lower elevations next to water, while others grow better high up on hills or mountains. The natural genetic lines of these outdoor plants will dictate the size and quality of the harvest. Often times choosing a proper growing location for a particular outdoor strain requires a long process of trial and error.
Equatorial Sativa varieties are of interest for quality herb production (Thailand, Oaxaca, Colombia, Central Africa, etc.) as the Indica zones are more renowned for hashish production. Parts of Nepal tend to produce both excellent hashish and fine Sativa buds, with some plants even living for longer than two years.
Durban Poison - original African strain, from the Rift Valley. This makes it a real good outdoor marijuana strain. A great marijuana plant for hot temperatures. A tight bud Sativa with a candy smell and an up high. One of the most reliable early outdoor varieties, it will produce chunky, solid buds even during the worst season. Durban Poison is one of the easiest-to-grow, highest-quality early varieties in the world.
Outdoor marijuana strain
Type : Sativa
Yield : up to 200 gram / square meter
Height : 120-150 cm
Climate : indoor / outdoor
Flowering period 8 wk’s
Harvest : end of September
Haze is the original sativa from Jamaica. Haze is a bushy tall plant with leggy stems and log gold tinged buds with narrow leaves. The THC ratio of haze sativa is always high, so the buds might be small but they are very potent. These haze marijuana plants can grow huge when given enough space, so yields can be high!
Type : Sativa
Yield : up to 200 gram / square meter
Height : 150-180 cm
Climate : indoor
Flowering period 10/12 wk’s
Purple buds on this plant give it a special taste and smell. It is a powerful purple marijuana strain with sativa overtones.
It is a very hardy plant and can be grown outdoors in the worst climates. Its ancestors are Holland’s Hope crossed with Skunk#1. A powerful high sativa odor. Purple marijuana has a sweet and sour taste.
Type : sativa
Yield : up to 200 gram / square meter
Height : 150-170 cm
Climate : outdoor
Flowering period 8 wk’s
White Widow marijuana strain is the strongest weed in the world. It sets the standard for white strains. This legend was born in the 1990’s. They grow tall with delicate arms. White widow marijuana buds have so much THC on them that it is hard to see the bud at all. The white widow marijuana high is extreme and the taste divine. White widow marijuana seeds have won more Cannabis Cups than any before. On the top of all Dutch coffee shop menu’s (mostly the most expensive!) is white widow marijuana seeds and white widow marijuana strains. The buzz is powerful and energetic, yet social. A must for anyone who thinks they are a smoker.
Indoor White Widow Marijuana
Type : Indica / sativa mix
Yield : up to 250 gram / square meter
Height : 50-80 cm
Climate : indoor
Flowering period 8/9 wk’s
Northern Lights marijuana strain has big broad leaves and large buds always covered with crystals. Highly adapted for indoor growing. A strong earthy taste. Northern Lights marijuana is not a big plant growing to about 1.5 m outdoors. It is a good plant for the indoor growers, it’s a classic northern lights marijuana plant and one of the most smoked and grown in Holland.
Indoor / Outdoor
Type : Indica
Yield : up to 125 gram / square meter
Height : 100-125 cm
Climate : indoor / greenhouse / outdoor
Flowering period 6-8 wk’s