Cannabis Crossbreeding: An Investigation into The Creation of Super Strains
In this post we'll take you through the gentle art of cannabis crossbreeding. Learn all there is to know about the creation of many of the super strains you see on the market today and remember to sign up to GreenRush today using the promo code at the end of the article to get $20 off your first FOUR cannabis delivery orders.
At GreenRush, we strongly support medical cannabis diversity and innovation. Seed creators, budtenders and patients are constantly pushing the envelope, testing, providing and seeking new cannabis lineages that bring added medical benefits, aromas and flavors to our collective strain library.
Cannabis strain selection and crossbreeding is no new-fangled phenomenon: It’s been around for thousands of years. Cannabis cultivation and consumption has been recorded dating back to 2900 B.C, when early sativa and indica strains are considered to have been key religious and medical ingredients among communities located in present-day India and Northwestern China. The earliest landrace cannabis strains are thought to have been grown and harvested in the Kush region in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan and first reached American shores in the 1970’s, giving rise to today’s much-hyped kush hybrids. Over time, other native landraces hailing from Western North America, South America and Southeast Asia have diversified, giving way to early hybrids or heirloom strains that have since gone on to form the basis of today’s cannabis crossbreeds. Although concerted efforts have been made to isolate heirloom sativa and indica strains through breeding programs, the fact remains that cannabis seed development, both past and present, has and always will be dependent on crossbreeding and hybridization for innovation and growth.
Over recent years, as global cannabis-user preferences have changed, cannabis crossbreeding programs have undergone a shift in focus. Moving away from the THC-rich strains with low CBD (cannabidiol) values that were once popular in the US in the 70’s and 80’s, today’s strains offer a neat cannabinoid balance which is designed to counteract undesirable psychotropic effects such as memory loss while still providing that tried-and-tested THC-based mental relief. CBD-rich super strains such as the Israeli-made Avidekel have gone as far as to reduce psychoactive THC levels to 1% while pushing pain-relieving CBD up to medical-grade levels of 15%.
In addition to experimenting with cannabinoids, today’s seed creators are showing an increased interest in developing the aromatic oils present in cannabis plants called terpenes. Terpenes give buds both its aroma and certain medicinal properties which range from antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects (present in spicy-scented caryophyllene) to anxiety and depression relief (present in citrus-smelling limonene). As our scientific understanding of the connection between terpenes and THC continues to grow, cannabis crafters like David Watson, the creator of Skunk#1, have molded their strain aromas into signature scents, ensuring that their buds can be immediately identified by their patients just by the aroma.
Finally, with the emergence of aroma as a key strain trait has come an increased attention to strain taste and appearance. From the resin-heavy White Widow strain to amber-pistiled Super Lemon Haze, seed creators are constantly looking for that delicious, picture-perfect cross. The best seed creators out there are are constantly looking at the taste, scent, color, and medical properties of their strains, and there is increasingly more information available to the public about the process of crossbreeding, such as this step-by-step guide to building your own super strain.
The Process of Cannabis Crossbreeding
Cannabis cross-breeding begins by pollinating a female plant with male pollen. By controlling this natural process scientifically, seed creators engage in what is effectively a case of selective breeding. The seeds that result of the cross between the female and male plants are what breeders calls F1 hybrids. In cannabis cross-breeding, indica and sativa plants form the basis of all strain sampling projects. Super seed breeders select sativa for its THC-richness and its potent energy-enhancing qualities, adding CBD-rich indica for increased medical relief. Ideally, these indica-sativa hybrids will possess an interesting mixture of inherited traits and characteristics such as color, taste, aroma and medical properties. In order to isolate certain desired traits, such as the beautiful white trichome coating in super strains like The White and The White Widow, breeders “cube” their strains, which means that they consistently cross-breed their F1, F2, and F3 hybrids with a selected parent plant possessing the model traits. The cubing process is usually carried out across three or more generations of hybrid descendants, at which point the hybrid becomes stable and develops clearly defined characteristics.
For cubing to work as a method of isolating traits, both sets of gametes (or sexual cells) from the offspring plants must carry identical complements of the gene which codes the particular trait. When a hybrid offspring expresses a model trait (such as The White Widow’s resin-heavy frost coating) after inbreeding with a parent plant, the hybrid is considered to be “true breeder”. A cross between two distinct, true-breeding lines will lead to homozygous offspring, and the resulting plant will possess two sets of pure-breeding traits. Despite possessing both traits in equal share, homozygous offspring visibly express only of the two sets of true-bred traits. Thus, seed creators who cross two stable, true-bred hybrids, must sample and analyze the resulting hybrids for their medicinal qualities before discarding or breeding them again.
Super strains are produced by consistently crossing true-bred, chromosome-consistent hybrids with chart-topping specs under controlled, stable conditions. Creating super strains is a long process requiring many generations of breeder plants. However, seed creators are usually wary of excessive inbreeding, which typically brings on a drop in medical potency.
Once a hybrid has been identified as a stable, marketable medical cannabis strain, it can then be reproduced asexually or cloned (by means of cutting, layerage or root division) without any genetic variation to the parental plant. For more information on cannabis crossbreeding, click here.
Californian Super Strains
With the rise of crossbreeding, publications around the world are observing the creation of new super strains very carefully. For example, the folks over at High Times recently put together this list of The Strongest Strains on Earth.
Hence, we went ahead and compiled our very own breakdown of 2015’s top THC-rich Californian-grown cannabis strains. Check them out below.
1. Ghost Train Haze (Hybrid)
A Rare Dankness production, Ghost Train Haze is a Ghost OG and Neville’s Wreck hybrid. Packing a mammoth 27.46% THC, sativa-dominant Ghost Train Haze is without doubt the undisputed champion of THC-heavy super strains. This ultra-potent strain is best taken in low doses and is to be avoided by patients who are prone to anxiety or paranoia.
A strong pain therapeutic with sativa energy-enhancing qualities, this multiple award-winning strain is noted for its brilliant, sweet flavor on the inhale and its smooth, piney delivery as it passes out of the mouth. Appearance-wise, Ghost Train Haze is also a peach of a bud, with glossy white trichomes, pale orange pistils and delicate, light green nugs. Pick up your Ghost Train Haze buds directly from Harborside Health Center or Green Bay.
2. Girl Scout Cookies (Hybrid)
Also known as GSC, this world-renowned strain is a Bay Area favorite designed by Cookies SF. Combining OG Kush and Durban Poison into an award-winning hybrid, GSC has steadily grown to become a standby strain for medical patients looking for quick relief from pain and sustained, balanced periods of body relaxation. GSC packs a solid 24.13% THC with relatively low CBD levels and brilliant, off-the-chart cookie dough terpenes (myrcene) also commonly found in hops and lemongrass. Living up to its mouth-watering name, GSC has also been known to function well as an appetite stimulator. In addition to its unique aroma, its smooth, tangy taste on the exhale and its potent medical qualities, GSC buds are a spectacle in their own right. The dark green, knotted buds are furnished with orange hairs and blue-purple foliage, with a light dusting of white trichomes on the surface. Girl Scout Cookies is available at a variety of dispensaries, including Harvest Bloom, Cannafornia Girls, The Cookie Co. and Patio Wellness.
3. Nexus OG (Hybrid)
An indica-dominant strain with an unknown lineage, Nexus OG is best known for being a chart-topping, THC-rich Venice Medical Center creation. One of the best marijuana super strains out there, this strain is best used at nighttime when its sleep-inducing qualities are most desirous. With a huge 24% THC, Nexus OG is also considered a prime pain-reliever with a pungent, berry-like scent and a pleasant mix of wood tones. This strain can be tricky to find.
4. Death Star (Hybrid)
A cross between Sour Diesel, a household classic, and Sensi Star, an invigorating indica, Death Star is a connoisseur favorite for its potency and suitability as both a daytime and nighttime strain. With a huge 23.99% THC, this slow-acting, long-lasting strain provides an intense buzz and a slow, concentrated measure of muscle relaxation without the much-maligned mind-body disconnect. Packing a concentrated diesel scent, Death Star also carries a whiff of spicy, earthy undertones that stun the senses. Death Star flowers are dark green in color, with muted brown and orange tendrils and a faint dusting of sticky trichomes. Caregivers Express Thousand Oaks keeps a tidy stock of this hybrid.
5. White Fire OG (Hybrid)
Also known as WiFi OG, White Fire OG is a Fire OG and The White hybrid. It is widely considered to be one of the most potent, THC-rich OG strains out there. Clocking in at a whopping 23.4% THC, this strain is a seamless mix of Fire OG’s strong terpene-producing qualities and The White’s dusty, resin-rich appearance. Featuring little to no added soporific effects, this strain is a proven mood-enhancer and stress reliever and is a great daytime strain. Its tell-tale frost-capped appearance is paired with a strong, musky scent of diesel which is a favorite among patients who prefer sativa-dominant strains. There are an array of phenotypes currently out there, but the best come in dense, clotted buds, with wispy light-orange pistils. White Fire OG is currently available on the LiveMeds online dispensary.
6. Red Dragon (Hybrid)
Another Barney’s Farm creation, like Tangerine Dream, Red Dragon is a Kush-Haze cross of beautiful West Himalayan Kush and Utopia Haze. This sativa-dominant strain tips the scales with its 22.76% THC, producing a high-impact buzz while also sharpening focus and attention. Among the best medical marijuana in California, its low CBD levels means Red Dragon may be susceptible to certain drawbacks, including mild paranoia if taken in excess. Considered an exotic, connoisseur strain, Red Dragon smells slightly of drupe fruit, and has matching green buds complete with flourishes of red and orange. Red Dragon is piney on the exhale.
7. Guava Chem (Hybrid)
An indica-leaning Chem 4 and Tres Chemdawg hybrid produced by the San Jose Patients Group, this powerful, terpene-rich strain is an exciting descendant of the well-known Chemdawg parent line. Producing potent mood-boosting effects and subtle relaxation, Guava Chem has been used to treat chronic pain and anxiety, while it has also had positive results as an appetite stimulant. As its name suggests, Guava Chem possesses a brilliant, tropical aroma which does little to mask its huge 22.54% THC. Guava Chem combines drupe fruit aroma and citrus flavor, producing a signature taste that has been likened to a sweeter, revamped version of Chemdawg. Guava Chem buds are a neon green color, with light-orange hairs and a brilliant white trichome finish.
8. Strawberry Banana (Hybrid)
The brainchild of DNA Genetics and Serious Seeds, this Banana Kush and Bubble Gum hybrid is an indica-leaning sledgehammer of a strain. With a rich 22.51% THC and low CBD levels, Strawberry Banana is a potent stress reliever. It is also been known to induce euphoria and aid concentration. This strain is most widely known for its strong, one-of-a-kind banana aroma, with sweet bubblegum undertones and hints of yoghurt that coat the tongue on the inhale. This terpene-rich strain comes in green nugs, with light brownish pistils and dazzling white trichomes. A connoisseur's favorite, visit MediThrive for your medical cannabis needs.
9. Extreme OG (Hybrid)
A Fire OG and Green Ribbon BX hybrid produced by Exotic Genetix in 2015, this strain will blow you away with its indica-strong 23.37% THC. Winning 1st place in the Amsterdam Cup in November 2014 ahead of other THC-rich rivals such as Tangerine Dream and Genetix-made The Sauce, this strain will keep you buzzing for hours, reducing chronic pain and inducing deep body relaxation. With low CBD values, Extreme OG has a blast-from-the-past feel about it. Its funky citrus aroma is allied with a heavy diesel undertone, and is smooth on the exhale.
10. Tangerine Dream (Hybrid)
This 2010 Cannabis Cup winner is an indica-leaning G13, Afghani and Neville’s Haze polyhybrid produced by Barney’s Farm. Its whopping 22.6% THC, combined with its high CBD levels, make it a great pain reliever without the overbearing soporific effect. Tangerine Dream strong euphoric effect makes it a good day time strain. Mistakenly thought to be a precursor to Tangie, Tangerine dream packs a strong citrus aroma, with pungent aftertones of sweet orange and lime. Dark green with brick red pistils and a light covering of trichomes, this strain has been beautifully bred. Check out Green Light Delivery to order your flowers today.
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