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Strains 101: A Breeding Glossary

These are the basic terms and concepts you need to know to better understand Cannabis cultivation and breeding.

Making new strains in the world today takes everything you’ve got… or at least some good genetics and a proper understanding of the breeding terms and techniques for expanding and improving the Cannabis gene pool. 

A plant that flowers automatically when it reaches a certain size regardless of photoperiod. Breeders created these types of strains using Cannabis Ruderalis genetics from higher altitudes with short flowering seasons. 

This is a breeding practice in which hybrids are crossed with one of their parents in order to try to stabilize chosen traits to discover a unique genotype. 

Applying pollen from male plants onto female flowers to produce seeds. This is done around the third or fourth week of flowering in order to give the seeds enough time to mature properly.  

Any plant with different and separate male and female specimens. Cannabis is a dioecious plant. 

A type of seed that grows only female plants. Breeders use “male” pollen from hermaphroditic plants to produce feminized seeds for growers that don’t want to grow out any males. 

The stored genetic footprint held within a plant’s DNA. 

A plant with both male and female flowers. This can be a genetic trait or a response to stress. Either way, growers should discard hermaphroditic plants to avoid seeding their crops. 

A combination of two genetically distinct varieties (e.g., sativa x indica).

F1 Hybrid
The first filial cross. 

F2 Hybrid, etc.
Each successive cross. 

S1 Hybrid
The result of selfing (using pollen from a hermaphroditic plant on itself). 

Indica-dominant plants grow short and stocky with wide leaves and shorter flowering times. 

Domesticated plants that have adapted to the conditions of their place of origin over many generations. These are used by breeders to create new hybrids by crossing them with distinctly different varieties (e.g., African sativa landrace x Indian indica landrace). 

A female plant kept in the vegetative stage to produce identical clones (or cuttings) to root and flower out. A motherplant can be a source of clones for many years.  

A plant’s observable expression of its genetic material within its environment. 

Fine grains released by male flowers to pollinate female flowers and produce seeds. Male pollen is carefully collected by breeders from flowering males and then brushed or dusted onto flowering females. 

The genetic result of crossing unstabilized hybrids with each other. The resulting plants can differ vastly in their characteristics.  

Sativa-dominant plants tend to have thin, long leaves and a longer flowering time. 

“Without seeds” in Spanish. These are the unpollinated female flowers we call buds or nuggets that don’t contain any seeds.  

Some hybrids created from distinctly genetically different parents express quicker growth and increased hardiness and yields in their first generation (F1). This hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, is how new varieties are created and discovered. 

Photos by @erik.nugshots

About Dan Vinkovetsky @dannydankoht

Dan Vinkovetsky (formerly Danny Danko of High Times) is a Cannabis writer and editor at Northeast Leaf Magazine since July 2020. Previously, He was the Senior Cultivation Editor at High Times Magazine since 2002. Danny is the author of "The Official High Times Field Guide to Marijuana Strains" (2011) and "Cannabis: A Beginner's Guide to Growing Marijuana" (2018). Danny hosted the podcast "Free Weed from Danny Danko” from 2011-2018 and currently hosts the podcast "Grow Bud Yourself!".

This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of All Magazines.

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