The cannabis seeds sold by today’s top seed banks are, on the whole, genetically stable. And well adapted to many growing conditions. Yet as the global environment continues to change at an unprecedented rate, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict how these seeds will fare.
We all need to do our bit to help safeguard the species’ future. One way that every cannabis grower can contribute is by saving their seeds.
Saving Cannabis Seeds Preserves Genetic Diversity
Over the decades, cannabis breeders have intensively selected for certain desirable traits such as high cannabinoid concentrations. While this has resulted in highly reliable and consistent cultivars, it has also significantly narrowed the cannabis gene pool.
Indeed, the entire purpose of this form of commercial breeding is to create plants that are as homozygous as possible. This means they are more or less identical in terms of both genetics and actual characteristics. Creating diversity is the antithesis of such an exercise. Any traits that are not of economic value are simply bred out of a strain’s genome.
Should the cannabis species ever need any of these long-lost traits to overcome a new environmental challenge, however, we could have a major problem on our hands. After all, diversity is nature’s way of ensuring that species can adapt to change. The consequences of a narrow gene pool can be catastrophic.
An example of this can be seen in the Irish potato famine. It came about because the predominant variety of the time had lost all of its genetic resistance to blight. This tragic episode – which resulted in around a million deaths due to starvation – highlights the importance of preserving the genetic diversity of a species. It also provides a strong argument for saving cannabis seeds.
By doing so, growers can bank their genetics and create stores of diversity. Even if the traits encapsulated by these seeds may not be of interest right now, there’s no telling what characteristics cannabis plants may need to survive in the future. Saving cannabis seeds is, therefore, akin to creating a mini doomsday vault. Full of essential genes that could one day help the species thrive in the face of new challenges.
Saving Cannabis Seeds Can Be Fun, Too
Prepping for an apocalypse needn’t be the only reason to start saving your cannabis seeds. Doing so also gives you more genetic material to work with when growing pot at home. It means more mixing and matching of different cultivars.
Obviously, if you want to end up with a bud with highly predictable characteristics, your best bet is to buy and plant seeds from a trusted seed bank.
However, by saving your cannabis seeds, you could also conduct your own mini breeding experiment. Resulting in the creation of a host of new phenotypes.
Trying out these home-bred plants can be great fun. And you never know, you could even end up with a new favourite cultivar that is entirely homemade.
How To Start Saving Cannabis Seeds
It probably goes without saying, but we’re going to mention it anyway. If you want to start saving cannabis seeds, then you need to fertilise your plants.
Typically, people who just want to grow weed at home but aren’t interested in breeding will get rid of their male plants, either by removing and destroying them or by only planting feminised seeds. However, these machos suddenly become helpful when it comes to creating new genetics, as the pollen they release allows females to produce seeds.
Therefore, the first step to saving cannabis seeds is to ensure that you have male and female plants growing close and that both reach maturity at the same time. After all, it’s no good letting your males blow their load if your females aren’t yet ready for fertilisation. However, as long as all your plants flower simultaneously, the pollen should hit its mark.
Pollinated females usually produce large numbers of seeds, which can take about four to six weeks to develop fully. It’s important not to harvest these until the seeds are good and ready, which means you can expect to reap your plants a little later than you would if growing sinsemilla bud.
You can tell when cannabis seeds are ready for saving once they have turned from green to dark brown. Mature seeds are also considerably bigger than younger ones and will sometimes develop tiger stripes.
Once your plants have reached the end of their life cycle and the seeds on your females are fully developed, the best thing to do is harvest the plants and let them dry for a couple of weeks. This will make it much easier to release the seeds as the plant material will be brittle enough to simply crumble away.
To harvest the seeds themselves, break up the flowers manually by rubbing them between your fingers over a fine screen. Be sure that no plant material remains stuck to the seeds, as this could damage them in the long run.
Storing And Saving Cannabis Seeds
Seeds can survive for many years if properly stored. This means keeping them in a cold, dry place devoid of both light and oxygen. Sudden changes in conditions should also be avoided, as this can trigger your seeds to start germinating.
Containers like opaque medicine bottles and film canisters are ideal for saving cannabis seeds as they let in no light and can be sealed. By placing these in the fridge or freezer and taking care not to disturb or open them, seeds should remain viable for a lengthy period.
Their viability will inevitably decrease each year, so it’s worthwhile planting a seed or two from time to time to check that they are still able to germinate. When doing so, take care not to disturb the rest of the seeds in your collection, as any fluctuations in light or temperature could have major consequences.
Above all, keep those little containers safe because the future of cannabis may hinge on you saving your seeds.