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cannabis seed development

General overview and considerations when making seeds

Close-up of a pistil shows the Ben Dronkers, owner of Sensi Seeds, seated in the complex structure. center in white, collecting seeds in Afghanistan, vest, smoke a bud sample from each plant, and determine the positive and negative characters of each plant, for its growth as well as its smoking characteristics. Post-harvest evaluation allows additional inspection of aromas and flavors, since these can change as the flower dries and cures.

Choosing male plants with desirable characteristics is not so easy. Males obviously don’t produce female flowers; thus, judging resin content, floral stature, smells, etc. is more of an inferential task-males just don’t demonstrate these characters. Some breeders feel a good method for choosing a potential male is to rub the stem with your finger. The idea is if it exudes a pungent, resinous odor, it may be a good plant. This is really only a crude measure of the odor of the candidate. Although it can be a useful technique, it certainly should not be the major selection criteria.

The best method for determining a potential male’s contribution as a breeditig parent is the progeny test. Progeny testing is achieved by taking pollen from a potential breeding male and using it to make seeds with the chosen female(s). The resulting seed population Is grown out and examined to determine the effect of the male on the progeny. Progeny tests are without doubt the most reliable method for determining the genetic value of the chosen male as a contributor to the next generation-a concept known as combining ability. One drawback of the progeny test is that it takes time to grow and evaluate the progeny, and the potential male plants must be kept alive if they are to be used again. Sometimes breeders choose to not keep these males alive, only keeping the progeny lots that correspond to the better male plants and destroying the rest. Only the best-performing males are allowed to make a genetic contribution to the next generation.

Step Two: Collecting pollen. One branch of male flowers will supply all the pollen necessary for small-scale breeders to produce ample seed

Neville, launder of the Seed Bank, traveled One large healthy male top is all you will need the world to lind the best cannabis seeds. when collecting pollen.

Male pollen literally covers this large male leaf.

Cut a branch of male flowers and place it in a plastic bag to collect pollen.

for their own use. Strip away oilier branches to guard against accidental random pollination, and to avoid premature pollination, isolate the male as soon as anthers show. Be considerate of the fact that airborne pollen can travel miles, If you brush up against a plant in dehiscence, pollen will become airborne and travel throughout the area.

Just prior to the anther’s opening, place a clean paper or plastic bag over the branch. Secure the bag at the bottom with a piece ol string or a wire tie to prevent pollen from escaping. Keep the bag over the branch for several days to collect pollen. When enough pollen seems to have been collected, tap the branch and shake remaining pollen off into the bag. Carefully remove spent branch and bag so the pollen does not escape.

Step Three: Store and protect pollen (optional), Pollen does not have a long shelf life under natural conditions; it is easily destroyed by high temperatures and moisture. Pollen can, however, be stored in the freezer for several months, if needed. This is accomplished by carefully removing the pollen from the collection bag and subsequently passing it through a screen. This removes any leaf matter from the anthers that may have fallen into the bag and contaminated the pollen, causing it to spoil. Wax paper is placed under the screen, and used to catch the pollen. The pollen can then be collected with a

Store pollen in an airtight vial in the freezer.

Cut a branch of male flowers and place it in a plastic bag to collect pollen.

Male pollen literally covers this large male leaf.

Store viable pollen at temperatures below freezing.

Collect male flowers and separate the pollen with a fine sieve.

Hrush a little pollen on female pistils to pollinate.


sterile scraper, placed in a small coin envelope or sterile test tube, and placed in the freezer. Cleanliness counts! Pollen should not be repeatedly frozen and thawed, which will decrease its viability.

Step Four: Pollination. Pollination occurs when pollen comes into contact with the pistil. Depending on variety, fresh pistils are ready to pollinate from two to twelve weeks after flowering is induced. The more pistils on the bud at the time of pollination, the more seed will be produced. Fertile pistils appear turgid and most often are white or off-white in color. Pistils that are withered, rust- or brown-colored are past the point where successful pollination can occur.

To pollinate, cover the female branch with the pollen filled bag, and briefly shake the bag to ensure the pollen comes into contact with as many pistils as possible. Leave the bag for two days and nights to ensure thorough pollination. Be careful not to scatter pollen when removing the bag, as viable pollen can still become airborne and pollinate any nearby plants. If other plants are in the garden and are not intended for pollination, the grower may move target plants from the main grow area into a separate, smaller space for pollination. After a couple days in the pollen chamber with the males, the female plants are thoroughly sprayed with water to destroy any remaining pollen, before they are moved back into the main grow area where these seeds will mature over the coming weeks. This practice minimizes the possibility of pollen fertilizing the rest of the crop, keeping it seedless as the cultivator requires. To reduce or eliminate pollen contamination of future seed crops, make sure to clean the pollination chamber between each pollen release.

An alternate approach is to use a small paint brush to "paint" pollen onto the pistils. Dtp the

Colled male pollen and put a little an a small artist’s paint brush.

Hrush a little pollen on female pistils to pollinate.

Cover pollinated female branch with a plastic bag to keep pollen from contaminating other females. Seeded female. Male ¡lowers have fallen and stuck to this fertilised seeded female. This green seed will be mature in a few weeks. ‘Rene’ courtesy Chimera Seeds. A bathroom is a good place to isolate and breed plants. The male on the right is pollinating the females in the bath tub.

A-collect pollen, B-cantain and store pollen, C-ptit some pollen on a brush, D-brush pollen on female pistils, E-cover to contain or F-set male in front of fan to pollinate all females.

brush in (he pollen container and gently brush the pollen onto the pistils. Again, the breeder must have a steady hand to ensure pollen doesn’t become airborne during the process. This technique is perfect if the cultivator only needs to make a few seeds.

After fertilization, most seeds will be fully ripe in about six weeks, although some may be viable earlier. As the seeds mature, they can split open the calyxes allowing the breeder to see the development ol the seed within. Seeds are ripe when they are mostly dark brown or grey, well-mottled (tiger striped), and sitting loosely in the calyx. Green, yellow, or white seeds are almost always immature and not viable. (Sprinkle them on your salad or cereal.) To test the ripeness of the seed crop, you can sample-harvest a few seeds and try to press them between your thumb and index finger to test the firmness. If mosl of the seeds do not crush with a reasonable amount of pressure, it’s time to harvest. If seeds are left on the plant too long, some may fall out of the buds and germinate on the growth medium below. This is more common with sa/iVa-dominant varieties. Indica varieties typically have more dense flowers, which hold the seeds more tightly. Breeders must remove seeds from indicos by crushing and sorting the seeds from the plant matter.

Seeds are ready to plant immediately, but the initial germination rates may be low. Germination rates can be increased by drying seeds out post harvest, leaving them in a cool, dark, well-ventilaled area for a few weeks, and then placing them in the refrigerator for one or two months before sprouting.

The seed can be seen inside of the seed bract in the circle. The bud on the left con fains a mass of seed bracts filled with seeds.

Please keep in mind this is only a guideline intended for small-scale seed production. Any method where pollen comes into contact with a pistil will result in seeds. Often breeders and seedmakers will place multiple males, or multiple copies of the same male (clones from a father donor plant) in the seed production grow room with their chosen females when creating seeds. Placing these males in a well-ventilated room and allowing full release of pollen ensures the crop will be completely pollinated, and produces a vast amount of seeds per plant. Scale the process to suit the number of seeds you require.

Seed Crop Care

Typically, cannabis growers use a high-phosphorus, low-nitrogen diet during the flowering cycle. My personal philosophy is to give seed production plants a complete balanced diet

Young seedlings require a complete balanced diet.

Vegetative and flowering plants require the same fertilizer for good seed development.

throughout the seed gestation period, so all nutrients required for proper development of the seeds are available. Because most cannabis-specific flowering fertilizers are low on nitrogen, growers may wish to combine vegetative and flowering fertilizers to ensure a complete diet for their seed mothers. Flowering nutrient formulas often lack certain nutrients, and the gestation period is not the time to be starving plants of these needs. Provide a complete diet, and let the developing seeds have all they need.

I’ve found that complete, balanced, organic-based soil mixes produce the most healthy, viable seeds. Organic soils contain various bacterial populations that break down and digest soil amendments to make them usable by plants. ‘Sterile’ salt-fertilizer based soils do not support these bacterial populations, and while they do support plant growth, they lack the "alive" quality of an organic soil. Many growers agree that organically grown pot has more flavor and taste than pot grown on a synthetic salt diet. It could well be that these organic bacterial populations provide some benefit to plant health, and thus produce more mature, healthy, viable seeds.

In order to have a discussion on breeding, there are some terms we must learn in order to fully understand the concepts. There are more terms defined in the Glossary.

Genetic material is inherited as described above, in the seed making section, from both the pollen donor and mother plant, The genetic material, or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is coiled into long, X-shaped strands called chromosomes and stored in the nucleus of every cell. In cannabis, each individual inherits 10 different chromosomes from the staminate pollen parent, and 10 different chromosomes from the seed mother or pistillate parent The resulting individual has 20 chromosomes total; 2 copies of each of the JO chromosomes, or 2 full genomes. This means there are 2 copies of every gene in the plant, one from the mother and one from the father. Each and every cell in the plant has a copy of this unique DNA compli-

Vegetative and flowering plants require the same fertilizer for good seed development.

Young seedlings require a complete balanced diet.

ment. The genetic code is written along the length of the chromosome strands, and each gene has a specific location along its length,

Phenotype – We consider phenotype as the observable, qualifiable, or quantifiable representation of a given trait. Anything you can measure, categorize, or otherwise observe in an individual can be considered a phenotype. Every plant has many different phenotypes. For example, plant height might be broken down into three categories or phenotypes: short, medium, and tall stature. There is a shorl phenotype, a medium phenotype, and a tall phenotype.

Cannabis flowers demonstrate different color phenotypes as well. Most often we see green calyxes, but there are also plants that have purple calyxes. Sometimes there are even green calyxes with purple markings. These are all different calyx-color phenotypes. There are also calyx-size and calyx-shape phenotypes, or leaf size and shape phenotypes. Every trait has different phenotypes that can be selected for or against.

All phenotypes are the observable result of genes acting within the cells ol the plant. Sometimes a single gene controls one trait (monogenic traits), and sometimes sets of genes operate together and contribute to make what we see as a phenotype (polygenic traits).

Genotype – The genotype of a plant is a way of describing the actual genetic condition that results in the phenotype. As the genetic constitution or makeup of an individual, genotypes are not always expressed. Some are latent and only express themselves given the proper environmental stimulus. For example, some plants have green leaves, but the leaves will turn purple under cold conditions. Other green-leaved plants will not turn purple even under cold conditions.

This happens because these plants have a different version of the gene(s) that control whether purple pigments are to be produced in the leaves. These different gene versions are called alleles.

These plants initially both had the green-leaved phenotype, but one plant developed an altered phenotype (purple leaf) in response to an environmental condition. This is due to an interaction of the genetics of the particular plant with respect to this trait (genotype) and the environment A simplistic way to think of the concept is:

Phenotype = Genotype + Environment

Remember, this isn’t 100% true. More accurately, the phenolype(s) seen in a given individual are the result of an interaction of the plant’s genotype with the environment,

Let’s look at some possible corresponding genotypes in our short, medium, tall phenotype example. Remember, the genotype is our way of describing the genetic condition responsible for the phenotype, therefore we can assign it whatever values we want, it’s really just a symbol.

There are always 2 alleles, or versions of every gene, including the gene responsible for stature. When we have 2 "s" (lower case s) or "small stature" alleles, we see the short phenotype in the plant. Conversely, when the plant has 2 "S" (capital S) or tall alleles, the phenolypic outcome is a plant ol tall stature. If the plant happens to inherit a copy of the tall and short allele, the resulting phenotype is a plant of medium stature.

Often, breeders base the symbol for the genotype on the first letter of the recessive expression of a trait. What this means will become clear over the next paragraph or so.

Homozygous / Heterozygous – These are terms used to describing the genotypic condition of a plant, with regard to the similarity of the alleles for a given trait. If a plant is homozygous for a given trait, it lias two copies of the same allele (homo = same). If a plant is het erozygous, it has two different alleles for a given trait (hetero = different).


Our mission for SEED™ is to develop tangible pathways into the cannabis industry for communities impacted by the War on Drugs through our three pillars: restorative justice, community business incubation, and education & workforce development.

Our vision:

Through SEED’s™ continued work, our vision is to repair the damage done by our nation’s drug policies, while serving as champions of change by molding an equitable and inclusive cannabis industry of the future.

A Letter from Mykel Selph, VP of SEED™

Thank you! SEED™ is the first private social equity initiative launched by major, multi state cannabis operator. You have joined us on a journey fraught with challenges but with potential to realize some pretty big wins. Despite these wins, we still have a long way to go in doing our part to achieve a socially equitable cannabis industry, with more Black and Brown participation at every level.

If you’ve heard me speak about SEED™, you’ve likely heard me begin describing SEED™ by paraphrasing Maya Angelou- “…when you know better, you do better.” What does that really mean with respect to social equity programming? While the cannabis industry itself is not new, this current regulated phase is still in its relative infancy. And, as is often the case, those with the most resources and access to the right networks were the first to the table. Frankly, that means there were mostly white men in position to be the earliest success stories of regulated cannabis, while opportunities for participation were delayed, and sometimes denied to Black and Brown people – despite Black and Brown communities having been destroyed by the policies of criminalization. SEED™ is about the acknowledgment of that injustice and a commitment to being responsible and accountable to the people and communities that have been ignored and oppressed. In fact, in some ways, the SEED™ team are the people that have been ignored and oppressed. When we design programming and provide support to community organizations, we are considering what we need to have a fair opportunity to be successful in the regulated cannabis industry.

SEED™ will always commit to being centered at the intersection of racial and economic injustice in the cannabis industry, and to serving our communities by:

  • Approaching community partners with humility, while listening and learning of their needs
  • Designing programs with the communities’ needs at the center of everything we do
  • Acknowledging the space and privilege we have in the industry and using it responsibility and restoratively
  • Staying open to learning new ways that we can “know better and do better”

An equitable, regulated cannabis industry will not happen overnight. Many of the industry’s efforts will take years to measure impact and determine if our collective mission has been realized. Right now, we invite you to stay with us on this journey and keep SEED™ honest by using your voices to ensure that successful cannabis companies, investors, legislators, and regulators stay on target to achieve a fair and equitable regulated cannabis industry.

Living SEED’s™ mission through our three pillars:

Restorative Justice

Through our restorative justice initiatives, we commit to elevating people whose lives have been impacted by the War on Drugs by working to remedy those harms. SEED’s™ restorative justice programming includes:
– Expungement Events
– Lobbying to progress and change the nation’s drug laws
– Working to ensure that no person remains in prison for a cannabis conviction

Community Business Incubator

The Community Business Incubator is designed to empower and jumpstart the creation of minority owned cannabis businesses. SEED™ provides both the technical and financial assistance necessary to apply, open and operate a cannabis business.

The Community Business Incubator serves entrepreneurs negatively impacted by the War on Drugs, who are interested in starting their own cannabis business or expanding their current business into the cannabis industry. SEED™ provides a two-phase incubator that offers key insights into technical application writing, operational knowledge and financial assistance to these entrepreneurs.

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SEED’s™ Education and Workforce Development Pillar develops cannabis programming tailored to communities disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs. This curriculum was designed to help individuals develop the skills needed to strategically and successfully enter the cannabis industry. SEED™ builds collaborative relationships with colleges and universities to develop course work to educate and prepare students for careers in the growing cannabis industry.

Cresco Labs staff serve on the Olive Harvey Cannabis Advisory Council, as adjunct faculty, and as a community partner. The SEED™ Initiative assisted Olive Harvey in developing Chicago’s first a Cannabis Specialist credit-bearing program.

Cresco Labs staff serves on the Moraine Valley curriculum committee and assisted with the development of their Retail Cannabis Retail Specialist Certificate.

2019/2020 Milestones & Achievements

  • Facilitated 22 restorative justice activations across Illinois, California and Pennsylvania
  • Contributed over 90 hours staffing expungement events
  • Helped provide expungement opportunities to over 1,000 individuals
  • Organized eight community and workforce development initiatives
  • Consulted and wrote curriculum with 5 universities and colleges
  • Supported 8 workforce development organizations
  • Organized 13 incubator events
  • Incubated businesses and a total of 255 individuals over Illinois’ two application periods
  • Volunteered 2,271 staff hours across every Cresco discipline to work with the incubator candidates

Learn more about our direct impact during 2019 and 2020 in SEED’s™ first Annual Report detailing these and other efforts dedicated to the program’s success.

Learn more about our direct impact in 2019 and 2020 in SEED’s first Annual Report detailing these and other efforts dedicated to the program’s success.

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SEED™ partners with Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) as part of a strong commitment to criminal justice reform and giving justice a voice. We were honored to be the 2020 recipient of their Bill Leslie Visionary award.

We provide funding to CGLA to help ensure that individuals with a criminal record as a result of the War on Drugs can get that record expunged.

We also help hundreds of individuals acquire their criminal history reports and create access to justice for individuals, families, and communities in the state of Illinois.