How amazing new strains are made

August 1, 2023

If you ever talk to an old-school stoner, you’ve undoubtedly heard the words “Today’s weed is not the same as it was in my day”. While this is true, a lot of our favorite strains that we enjoy today are descendants of the strains that were popular in the 60s and 70s. The O.G. strains, known as landrace strains, were all pure indica or sativa plants. The weed we know today is all from cross-breeding and hybrids made along the way from those landrace strains. Weed is constantly changing to suit flavor needs and community trends, so cultivators need to keep up by offering new strains. We need to go back to some basics to figure out how this is done.

Cannabis plants are available in male and female form, a trait known as dioecious, and are only found in the plant kingdom. Only female plants will produce those delicious buds we all love so much. The female plants will produce seeds (phenotypes), but the male plants will provide pollen to fertilize the females. Mature male plants will open up and disperse their pollen to the female plants to pollinate. Once the female plant has grown to maturity, seeds will grow inside it that contain both the male and female plants’ DNA. This is how a new strain is created. In the wild, this is done naturally. If a male plant happens to be growing near a female plant, it will pollinate the female plant. The female plant will grow to maturity and then die, releasing the seeds into the ground for the next year.

Creating hybrid strains

Creating hybrid strains is a bit of an art form. Cultivators will choose two strains that they have calculated the potential taste, potency, flavor, etc., and cross-pollinate them. The desired effects are taken into account for both the male and female plants and then they are cross-bred. This is usually done in what is called a breeding chamber, which ensures successful pollination. When the female plant matures, the seeds are collected and planted, which grow into a new strain the next year. Since this new strain contains new male and female DNA, this is now known as a hybrid.

The new seeds that are found in the female plant are known as phenotypes. Two factors impact the structural formation of the cannabis plant: genetics and environment. These two parts are what determine color, shape, smell, and resin production. The genes allow for a large spectrum of growth potential but can change due to their environment. When we cross-breed, we change the environment, which then changes the genetics of the new seeds being produced. Think of it in terms of dogs and designer breeds. Designer breeds are two well-known dog breeds that are mated to create a new breed. The new breed will carry characteristics of both parents, but will now have their unique genetic makeup. The same principle applies when creating new weed strains. This is also true with cannabis and dogs, not every new crop or litter will produce the same results. Each plant, or puppy, will be unique to itself, yet similar to its siblings. Each phenotype will be derived from both parents, but present with the unique traits they inherit.

Breeders will often create multiple strains when cross-breeding strains. Not everyone will end up on dispensary shelves, though. Once plants are grown and matured, the breeder will choose the best of the best to take to market.  This is called pheno-hunting when the best version of the new strain is picked for sale. This process can be lengthy and may need a few generations of the version of the strain, taking months or even years. Breeders can grow 10 seeds and pick the best 5 of the bunch. They will then be regrown and the top 3 will be picked. Those 3 will be regrown and then the best will be picked. When that perfect phenotype is created, the strain will then be mass-produced and prepared for sale.

When these strains become popular, sometimes breeders will release a “spin-off” version of the strain. This may be done to capitalize on the strain’s popularity or just to offer another version of the strain to the public. An example would be something like Wedding Cake and Wedding Cake 2.0. They will have the same parent genes but have resulted in different and unique traits.

Since all cross-bred and hybrid strains are from two different parent strains, you can be assured that there is some classic cannabis lineage still around today, just in a new form. Most strains of today will have hybrid characteristics, but you can find some that are almost pure Indica or Sativa. Juniper Jill offers a variety of Indica (Reflection collection) and Sativa (Brilliance collection) heavy strains, while we also offer hybrid strains in our Symmetry collection. Find your perfect strain today at Upstate Canna Co. (in-store and delivery) in Schenectady, NY, Good Grades NYC in Queens, NY, or by delivery from the Capital Region to Long Island through Legacy Dispensers.

Must be 21+. Please consume responsibly.