Marijuana BreedingBreeding marijuana seeds gives you lots of fun and opportunities to improve your high.
© Copyright, John Foster, 2015

Marijuana Breeding Tips for Beginners

Breeding marijuana to make your own strains and seeds can be very simple if all you do is a basic program as follows…

You get non-feminized marijuana seeds and grow them.

You select the best males and females and isolate them from each other.

You collect male pollen and put it on select female flowers, labeling each pollinated branch so you know what pollen you used.

You wait 4-7 weeks after pollination to make sure your new seeds are ripe.

You harvest your pollinated branches, and break apart the buds to collect the seeds.

You grow more marijuana plants from those seeds, and start the process over again.

This isn’t the complicated process used by professional marijuana seed breeders like Subcool. There are more steps involved if you want to make seeds that are like the best commercial cannabis seed strains.

The main characteristic you want other than viable, fast-germinating, strong marijuana seeds is that you want strains that are stable and predictable.

Stable, predictable cannabis strains are those that grow out to be the plants you want them to be.

For example, if you germinated ten non-feminized Platinum Kush seeds, selected a male and female to breed, and created seeds, you’d want those seeds to create marijuana plants that look, smell, grow, taste, and stone just like the original Platinum Kush.

But those new seeds might have more phenotypic variation than the original Platinum Kush seeds you started with.

Background genetics shift and come forward during breeding. Your new self-made Platinum Kush seeds might grow plants that look quite different from each other, or from the original plants you bred.

That’s why marijuana breeders do something called “backcrossing.”

Backcrossing is intended to encourage and stabilize favorable traits so marijuana seeds are “true breeding.”

True breeding means the marijuana seeds grow out to be plants you can count on to deliver what that strain is supposed to look like, smell like, taste like, and how it gets you high.

Backcrossing happens when you pollinate your original Platinum Kush plants from a Platinum Kush male, collect the seeds, grow out the new seeds along with the original seeds, select a male from the new seed plants, and pollinate the original Platinum Kush with pollen from the second generation of seeds you created.

To develop truly stable marijuana strains, you backcross several times. During each backcross, you select donor male pollen plants and female plants that have the traits you most desire.

One way to do this is to maintain an original favorite motherplant that you use for breeding.

This is different than maintaining motherplants for creating cuttings, because a breeding motherplant is going to be flowered, pollinated, harvested, and rejuvenated at least a couple of times.

An alternative to this is to maintain a favored motherplant for taking clones, and then use those clones as backcrossing females to pollinate with backcrossed male pollen.

As you do marijuana breeding, be sure you’re selecting female and male marijuana plants that best live up to your expectations of what you want from that strain.

The characteristics that distinguish one marijuana strain from another are taste, smell, appearance, vigor, bloom time, and the type of high you get.

Even if you don’t backcross, if you grow out male plants and use their pollen to pollinate female marijuana plants, you’ve made seeds that’ll contain 70-100% of the traits of the original plants.

Some of those seeds will grow out to be exactly like the female you pollinated. Others will have variations… mostly slight variations.

One pollination of a budded branch 10 inches long can yield you dozens if not hundreds of new marijuana seeds.

And even if some of those seeds grow plants that have phenotype variation and aren’t 100% exactly like the plant you pollinated, they’re almost certain to still possess most of the characteristics you like about your original strain.

What I’m saying is, you’re unlikely to have total failures.

If you start with excellent cannabis genetics, you’ll create seeds that grow potent buds. They might not be exactly the same as the original seeds you grew, but they’ll grow fantastic marijuana plants with buds that get you very high.

Marijuana seed breeding at an advanced level is probably the hardest, most time-consuming, and most challenging marijuana cultivation skill you can master.

There’s no way to explain the totality of marijuana breeding in a marijuana magazine article, or even a series of articles.

So to help you along, I’m enclosing an article written by TGA seed breeder Subcool that was published in High Times.

I’m also including a link to other articles on breeding, and to the Bible of marijuana breeding: Marijuana Botany, by Robert Connell Clarke.

If you become dedicated to breeding marijuana and learn it well, you might be able to create your own superb marijuana strains and sell them!

Here’s the article by Subcool:

The Beginning

The story of Apollo 13 begins with the Brothers Grimm, cannabis breeders who were only around a short time but had a huge impact on my cannabis collection and genetics stock.

One of their pre-eminent strain creations was the fabled Apollo 13, and it is without a doubt one of my all-time favorites.

Never mind the fact that she produced some of the best red-colored bubble hash ever made, or that her buds have amazing potency— her best quality may very well be the genetics locked inside, which produce extraordinary hybrids when used in breeding projects!

I have written extensively on the history of Apollo 13, but just in case you’re unfamiliar with the strain, allow me to cover some basic facts. Apollo 13 is a cross between Genius and P-75, two strains created by the Brothers Grimm.

I grew Genius about eight years ago, at the same time I was growing Apollo 13, and I actually let that cutting go because of her small yields. Back then, I was much more concerned with yield over quality, but I regret that now, as Genius (an Apollo 11 phenotype) was my second-favorite smoke— and considering that Apollo is still one of my favorites to this day, I’m sure that Genius would have been as well.

Only 500 Apollo 13 seeds were ever produced, so it was rare to begin with. And then, out of that small gene pool, only three cuttings that I’m aware of survive to this day from the original stock.

We were lucky enough to have saved not only two packs of seeds, but also to acquire one of the prized female cuttings from someone close to the source.

It’s very hard to describe Apollo 13, as she is unique among cannabis plants (excluding her hybrids). She has a very strong aroma that is a mix of sour fruit and black pepper, as well as an underlying citrus scent that mixes with the general skunkiness.

Here’s what the Brothers Grimm had to say about this strain:

“Apollo 13: This skunky girl will make your eyes water with her pungent perfume. The delicate balance of indica/sativa makes Apollo 13 perfect for growers limited to a single strain. The long, fat colas and sparkling, sticky side branches really weigh in at harvest time. This is the type of smoke you can’t hold down; it expands and blasts off from the lungs. The high is clear and cerebral, without a hint of paranoia. Her citrus flavor and happy high make Apollo 13 very popular at parties! Two hits and you can leave your own footprints on the moon. Flowering: 45-55 days. Height: 120-150 cm. Yield: 400 gm/m2.”

So for years I grew this girl out, writing stories about her exploits and making some great hash along the way. Finally, when I got into breeding cannabis, I used her to create one of my award-winning strains, combining Apollo 13 with Space Queen to create an instant winner in Vortex, easily one of the best hybrids I’ve ever done.

Supporters of my work (both at home and online) urged me to continue my work with the Apollo 13 and backcross the mother plant in order to produce what we in the breeding game call a BX (B = back and X = cross). This process is the method of using a plant’s sibling male to pollinate the mother plant (hence the backcross) in order to produce a hybrid with additional (or stronger) traits from that mother plant.

In theory, each time a backcross is performed, the resulting seeds produce plants more and more like the mother plant (though this isn’t always the case, as different phenotypes may be expressed in the offspring). Usually, though, each time the step is repeated (i.e., over numerous backcrossings), the desirable traits of the mother plant are increased.

However, I should also note that if a marijuana grower continues the process, there is not a great benefit as far as stability goes.

One proper backcross of the correct plants, however, can yield an amazingly close replica of the mother plant in high numbers.

The How

Once I was finally talked into this project by lovers of the Apollo 13, I started by germinating 20 Vortex seeds in order to find 10 suitable males to select for a breeding program.

As luck would have it, I got 19 female plants, and even though the one male in the bunch was a good one, we decided to scrap that project for the time being.

Later that year, I had another legal grower start 40 seeds for me, and over time we worked our way down to four nice males that we put through our selection process until we found the one male that performed as we wanted.

This process is very intricate and time-consuming, since the only way to check the traits of a male is to breed it with a known female; the resulting seeds are then grown out, and the hybrid that most resembles the mom is noted and the male plant that produced this effect is saved.

This is how we created the Apollo 13 BX, but I did have one timesaving trick: As a contributor to many medical marijuana groups, I can donate these crosses to medical growers and then collect their information and apply it to my research. This saves a great deal of time, and I think it works better than having one person trying to track hundreds of plants over time.

By compiling this information in 2009, we were ready to do a test release of our Apollo 13 BX to some medical growers and then kick back to watch the findings come in.

At the same time, I had some people close to me start a few packs so we could observe how the hybrid compared to the Apollo 13 mother plant. I knew we had a winner early on, but kept quiet as I saw plants in early growth just covered in resin.

By week three of budding, I could start to smell traits I was already very familiar with in the BX. We released the strain privately late in 2009 and again sat back and waited as the gardens bloomed and the results came in. Once we were sufficiently impressed, the strain went live to the public in 2010 and quickly sold out in the first few weeks, leaving us scrambling to make more.

In the end, the Apollo 13 BX turned out to be the spitting image of her mother, and I’m hard-pressed to tell the difference when looking at my own pictures of the two.
Much like her mom, the Apollo 13 BX’s high is inspirational and motivating as long as you don’t overdo your consumption. You still feel it quickly, and it just keeps on building.
It is possible to take a few too many hits and immobilize yourself physically while your mind is running wild with way too many ideas to actually get anything done, so let the smoker beware!

Black Russian

The Black Russian is one of the most amazing-looking strains ever to be photographed.

Allow me to explain: I’ve been growing cannabis and photographing the plant for a little less than 10 years. I love documenting as many strains as I possibly can. To me, seeds are like a box of Cracker Jacks, and I can’t wait to see the surprise I get each time I grow a new strain from seed.

Black Russian went on to become extremely famous, and to this day breeders offer crosses made using these hybrids that we created using the Solid Purple female and the Dark Magenta male (which is the same one we used to create the F2 that we also released). These days, however, I don’t like the Black Russian very much, and we currently offer no hybrids of the parents, nor does anyone in our circle of marijuana growers still grow it.

But why has Black Russian disappeared from my cannabis strain catalogue?

Let me share the behind-the-scenes story and shed some light on why I don’t smoke or grow one of the most sought-after cannabis crosses to surface in a long time.

At first, like everyone else, I was blown away by the looks of the Black Russian female we found using seeds from a grower named Nebu. Nebu had given us a few packs of his seeds.

We shared those seeds with friends up north, and I ended up with a few females and a few males, after which I narrowed it down to one female and one male based on things I’ve learned to look for over the years. I actually asked Nebu if this was okay, and his response was to have at it.

Everyone but me was gaga over that Black Russian’s purple buds, but I thought it had a weird taste of musk and pepper that overpowered the nice grape smell and flavor lurking underneath.
Meanwhile, everyone was screaming, “Give us some Black Russian F2s.” So I did, and they were released to the growing public. About 75 percent of the females grown from seed turned an amazing color, but I still caught hell from every grower that didn’t get a purple phenotype.

I thought I could improve the strain’s potency and taste, possibly by crossing it with one of my favorite mother plants, the Apollo 13. So I used the Black Russian male to pollinate an Apollo 13 female, thus creating the strain we called Sputnik. I grew out the new sibling cross, and we found a nice ratio of deep pink females to ones that only exhibited solid white pistils and green coloring.

The surprising thing to me, however, was that the buds from the latter were so much better tasting and more severely potent than the buds from the deep pink females.

By this point, I had become convinced that potency and purple pot were not necessarily related. I stopped being so impressed with purple weed and started preaching that purple was just a color and not an indication of quality in any form other than looks.

I passed the mother and father plants on to a medical grower and asked him to keep them alive (which he didn’t).

It was around this time that everyone that was able to get a pack of my Black Russian F2s started showing them off online and then things really got crazy. But I had no more seeds to give out, and the few distributors still holding packs were getting prices never before heard of for cannabis seeds.

The last pack went for $1,000 (and I should make clear that none of that money went into my pocket, as I feel that’s taking advantage of people).

Meanwhile, once I moved out west, I was also able to sample some of the Kushes that people liked so much: OG Kush, Bubba Kush and Chemdog. And I realized then that I dislike the flavor of Kush! No matter which strain it is or how well it’s grown, I just don’t like the hot taste of Kush.

But I now understand why so many people loved the Black Russian, the Sputnik and the other hybrids spun off from this work: It wasn’t a bad strain, just one I didn’t enjoy the taste of.

I think of it this way: Some people love blue-cheese salad dressing, while the mere thought of it makes others cringe. And the same can be said for cannabis flavors, except I discovered this too late. The whole experience did teach me that there are many, many different pot palettes (and palates), so I no longer rush to judgment based on my own personal tastes.

After all, the Black Russian always got me really high and I just rarely got past the taste of the first bowl.

After our relocation out west, I was able to find an amazing-tasting Urkel female that also turns an amazing color, though nothing like the neon purple of the Black Russian. The Urkel was, however, much better pot, and the strain we created with it, Querkle, is an amazing indica with purple traits and a great grape flavor.

So I don’t hate purple anymore either and that’s a very good thing.

In fact, a new marijuana hybrid we created using Querkle, this one called Qleaner, has become one of my favorite strains of all time! It tastes like grape soda but has the added potency of Jack’s Cleaner.

So that’s it: the story of a strain you may have seen or heard about, and why it’s now more of an urban legend than it is a seed that growers can actually acquire.

That’s Subcool’s report on marijuana breeding. For more information so your marijuana breeding gives you want you want, take a look at the links below:

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