Pheno hunting: a never-ending world of new strains

According to cannabis experts, there are over 700 strains of cannabis. With a roster like that, it’s no secret that the world of cannabis is evolving at full speed.

Let’s get into it.

Common cannabis classifications rely on defining a strain as either an indica, sativa or a hybrid. Many smokers rely on this differentiation when choosing a strain; indicas are usually more relaxing and sedative, while sativas are known for being energizing and cerebral.

What about hybrids? Well, they’re kind of a middle ground. Hybrids are born by crossing an indica and sativa strain together. They can be an even blend of the two, or be more dominant in one or the other. Naturally, different combinations of old strains have led to a plethora of new hybrid strains. At a technical level, almost everything these days could be considered a hybrid; every hybrid strain possesses a distinct indica to sativa ratio, making the options nearly endless.

It’s no wonder that as new strains enter the cannabis world, a bulk of them end up being hybrids.

But cultivators must remain creative. As the cannabis market expands, the demand for new and potent strains does, too. Cultivators are now tasked with the chance to level up, to create strains that are better than ever before.

How did these strains come to be?

Both female and male plants are needed in order to create a new cannabis strain. Male plants produce pollen sacs, while female plants produce flowers, AKA actual buds. In fact, only female plants are able to produce smokable flowers. Male plants pollinate female ones, and the seeds that occur here are then collected in order to isolate the female plants. This is a lengthy process, one can take months, and can last up to a few years.

But once the female seeds have been selected, they are grown into different plants that originate from parent strains. And what do we have now? Phenotypes.

In short, phenotypes function as the genetic blueprint of a particular strain; when a female plant produces seeds, every seed is considered a phenotype that contains the traits from the mother and father plants. Smell, color, potency and even resin production are all qualities attributed to phenotypes. These traits are imperative to breeders, or pheno hunters.

Pheno hunting is the process of searching for the best phenotype of a particular strain. A pheno hunter’s goal is to find a phenotype that best expresses a particular strain’s genetics. Once a new strain has been established, cultivators are now tasked with a different goal: to find which plant functions as an exemplary version of the new strain. Genetics are then stabilized to ensure consistency within the growing process.

Because phenotypes contain a different set of genes, stabilizing the genetic makeup requires cannabis seeds to be homozygous, meaning they share the same genes. Once different seeds can consistently produce the same plant, the genetics have successfully been stabilized.

The result has proved fruitful. With an energetic approach to modifying the very thing so many of us know and love, cultivators have remained ahead of the game, providing us with a multitude of new favorites.

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