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How to Choose the Right Hemp Seed Genetics for Harvest 2021

Choosing hemp seeds or cuttings with the right genetics is one of the most important decisions you can make to ensure a successful harvest–and maximum profits. So whether you’re new to hemp farming or want to improve upon last year’s yield, it’s wise to adopt a novice’s mindset. Before buying hemp genetics this year, make sure to learn everything possible about your local terrain, regulations, and market demand.

To help you choose the right hemp variety for your end product, we sat down with David Raab , CEO of Roseville Farms , for insider tips. David is a second-generation nursery operator who exclusively produced roses and clematis plants for two decades before diversifying into hemp two years ago. Today Roseville Farms grows terpene-rich smokable hemp and tests and certifies various genetics for the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project .

“The most critical aspect of choosing the right genetics is education about the plant and the regulations in your area. Then, once you add good genetics to the mix, you can create a unique and highly sought-after product,” said David.

What questions do I need to answer before choosing the right hemp genetics for harvest?

The questions you ask yourself will help lead you on the path to making the best decision about which genetics to choose. Breeders create hemp seeds and clones with specific traits, so you’ll need to determine which characteristics make the most sense for your goals and circumstances.

1. How do state laws affect my ability to choose the best hemp seed genetics?

Understanding state laws is without a doubt the first prerequisite to choosing your hemp seed genetics.

Every state has different rules and regulations surrounding seed selection. Some states, like Oregon, allow you to procure genetics from non-certified breeders assuming the final crop passes safety and compliance tests.

Other states, like Florida, have a much more closed system. In Florida, regulators must approve the hemp seeds or clones through one of its pilot projects, such as the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project . Alternatively, farmers can choose from one of ASCOSA certified genetics.

If you live in a highly regulated state like Florida, your genetics’ options are limited. That can feel restrictive, but on the upside, such rules can also provide you with peace of mind knowing any variety you choose will meet regulatory criteria and come from a reputable source.

“We work for the Food and Agriculture Services in Florida to approve varieties based on the quality of the genetics. If the plants grow properly and test below the legal THC threshold, we approve the cuttings for sale in the state. With hemp cuttings, you have much more consistency than seeds,” said David.

2. Should I buy hemp seeds or hemp cuttings?

According to David of Roseville Farms, the answer depends on the size of your operation and your budget. A 50-cell cuttings plug can cost five dollars each, getting very expensive depending on how many acres you have.

“If you plant 100 acres or more, it makes more financial sense to put seeds down. But if you have 4-5 acres, you’ll probably want to purchase hemp cuttings because the process is much more efficient and reliable,” said David.

Hemp cuttings are stems of the plant that are cut off in order to be rooted and grown into a clone of that plant. Cuttings are more reliable because they mature faster and are genetically identical to the original variety, so you’ll never have to guess what the terpene, CBD, THC, or other cannabinoid content will be.

3. How does my environment affect my hemp seed genetics choice?

Whether it’s a temperature-controlled greenhouse, indoor growhouse, or outdoor field, your environment will determine the type of hemp seed genetics you can choose. The amount of light the plants receive, the temperature, and the moisture conditions all play a significant role in whether you can select short-day varieties, long-day varieties, or autoflower varieties.

“You can find a lot of different genetics, but not all of them will grow in your environment–especially hemp.”

4. What type of hemp product do I want to sell?

Ultimately, the product you choose is the key determining factor to which genetics are right for you. According to David, hemp products fall under these three broad categories.

  1. Hemp for CBD extraction
  2. Hemp for Fiber production
  3. Boutique Hemp (high-end smokable hemp, hemp for terpenes, high-CBG hemp, etc.)

“Some hemp genetics grow great buds with lousy terpene and cannabinoid content. Others grow small buds with high cannabinoid or terpene content,” said David. “You can even purchase genetics that grow into flavored varieties, like lemon, chocolate, strawberry, and diesel.”

You can find hemp genetics for any type of product. Just make sure to have a business case before you grow. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a market demand for my desired product?
  • Do I have buyers lined up?
  • What do my buyers want?

“Demand for CBD isn’t going away, but extractors are getting savvy, and they want the highest level of quality,” said David. That means it’s vital to choose the hemp genetics that aligns with your clientele’s needs before getting started.”

5. Are autoflower hemp seeds suitable for me?

“Theoretically, who wouldn’t want hemp varieties that grow on queue? The problem with autoflower genetics is I haven’t seen any that are top-tier quality,” said David.

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According to David, autoflowers are great for beginners, but they probably won’t yield products with the highest market value–at least not today.

“Several breeders across the country are working on creating autoflower varieties that yield higher terpene content and CBD levels. I’m sure we’ll have excellent autoflower hemp genetics soon,” said David.

Once that happens, you’ll have access to efficient, predictable genetics that you’ll be able to plant all year and in every terrain.

How to choose a reputable hemp seed genetics dealer

Now that you’ve determined the type of hemp genetics you need based on your region, growing conditions, budget, and desired end-product, it’s time to choose your dealer.

If you live in an open state where you can choose from non-certified seed dealers, it’s essential to do your due diligence before purchasing.

“Ask the dealer who they sell to and who grows their seeds or clippings. Then talk to the people who have bought their product and ask about the experience,” advised David. “Also, be sure to ask the dealer for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) to verify their claims about cannabinoid content”

1. If I choose hemp seed genetics from a reputable dealer, will my hemp grow precisely as promised?

No matter how reputable your seed dealer is, you’ll need to employ proper cultivation and testing procedures to make sure the crop grows as you expect.

According to David, when you grow clones from hemp cuttings, the genetics are always the same, and you should get exactly what you expect. Pesticides, for example, will not affect the final cannabinoid content of cuttings in any way.

“If the seed dealer tells you the variety will run hot on week nine, it should be hot on week nine,” said David.

But Hemp seeds are a different story.

“Hemp seeds are like different children from the same parents, whereas clones are identical matches,” said David.

2. How can I be sure my hemp harvest won’t run hot?

The only way to ensure your hemp is compliant–containing less than 0.3% THC–is to test it regularly before harvest. According to David, if you’re growing five to ten acres of material, you should test twice a week starting around week five.

“Some people think every few weeks is fine, but then you won’t know the results until harvest. And by then, if you test above the THC limit, it’s too late to do anything about it,” said David.

So you’ll want to know THC levels regularly because one week can change everything and could indicate that you need to harvest earlier than you thought.

“Some people make the mistake of letting the crop grow too long because they want as much volume as possible. Others buy unapproved or unvetted genetics from a shady supplier. These are two major reasons hemp can grow hot,” said David.

The Bottom Line

According to David, every hemp variety will grow hot if they’re allowed to develop to full maturity. That’s why it’s so vital to buy from a verified dealer and to t est early and often with certified third-party laboratories. Moreover, most hemp varieties will yield a wildly different crop. That’s why it’s critical to choose genetics that were bred to generate the specific qualities and compliance you expect.

It All Starts With A Seed: Navigating The Genetics Side In Cannabis

Swerve: I am from California, I am a 1st generation Italian born in Los Angeles, California.

WB: Where are you now in the world?

Swerve: I am at my office answering these questions in good old sunny So-Cal. We have always had our main office in Los Angeles well the San Fernando Valley to be exact. We then have our European office out of Amsterdam actually now that I think of it, we just recently moved that office to Watford just north of London, UK renting space with Pure Sativa / Arrogance accessories.

WB: What part of the cannabis business do you work in?

Corporate duds. Swerve

Swerve: We are in the genetics side of the industry (I would love to bring the brand true full-term seed to sale one day), but at the moment we do seeds (We stabilize old strains, create new strains and hybrids.). You know the beginning of it all. I own The Cali Connection Seed Co as well as TCC Consulting, LLC in the worldwide marijuana industry or as I call it “The World of Weed”. The Cali Connection Seed Co first opened its doors in 2008, in Los Angeles, CA and quickly grew to a worldwide brand. When we opened there wasn’t many, if any seed companies there was us TCC and TGA selling seeds to all the major dispensaries throughout California as legal as we can here in the USA. I just happened to get lucky, by holding a USA and Italian passport, I was and am able to have a European branch of my company The Cali Connection Seed Co. We have been very fortunate to have this ability as we were able to access world of weed really fast. We have European and South American distribution through Pure Sativa in the UK due to this.

WB: How did you find your path to seeds?

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Swerve: I provided clones originally to the medical community in 2003/2004 known as Swerves Cuts of the rarest most sought-after genetics at that time. I was searching for the best of the best. The original versions of said genetics at the time, the OG Kushes the original aka the Tahoe OG or SFV OG, Larry OG, the real deal Original Sour Diesel, The Original Pre98 Bubba Kush and the famed Chemdog. I not only sourced direct from the originator, but I was actually able to make friends with some of these legends. I was amazed as to the reception and appreciation of providing these clones in 2004/2007 of verified genetics. So, I guess seeds and a seed company were a natural progression.

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WB: Did you have a mentor?

Swerve: I am a self-taught marijuana grower and breeder. I read and experimented. I believe in the trial and error method of learning. The hands-on aspect of firsthand knowledge.

WB: Who taught you about plants? Swerve: My father and grandfather taught me about farming. They were farmers and goat herders in Adelphia, Bari, Italy. It was the making rows for the growing of zucchini, tomatoes, basil, peppers, etc. that formed the foundation of what would be my life now. I owe all of my growing and building skills along with my hard work ethic to that. I can honestly say that as a fact.

WB: Do you have a green thumb?

Swerve: Very much so, Yes. I do have a very green thumb. I can grow just about anything. I grew peanuts smack in the middle of the city on down to air layer new blood orange trees from the tree in my backyard. I love the entire process of growing from the start on down to the harvest. It is great for your mind, body and soul.

WB: Indoor or outdoor grown?

Swerve: Always indoor grown. Sorry, I love the sun, nature and natural herb but the bug issue, the dust, the dander in the air. I don’t know it is just was less controlled compared to indoor. That doesn’t mean I would not enjoy some killer grown organic outdoor. But yeah, greenhouse is better than pure outdoor, but I am all about indoor.

WB: Favorite grower?

Swerve: To be honest I would say most of my grower friends.

I cannot name names as I do not want to be rude and say one is better than the other. I can say most of the time when they hand me some personals, it is usually absolutely delicious.

WB: What is your six and twelve-month goals?

Swerve: 6-month goals are to continue on our progress of country wide expansion. At the moment we are working on licensing the brand across the country. Our goal is to really ramp up our nursery licensed facility in California for this coming year. Our 12-month goals will be to continue activating licensees in the legal states we work in currently. We want to really begin a nation-wide promotional campaign to solidify us as one of the oldest seed brands in the American Marijuana Industry.

WB: What about stigmas?

Swerve: They do not bother me. I come from a tough upbringing. I was always told by my Mom never to dwell on what anyone’s opinion is of me and or my work. To always keep moving forward no matter what.

Swerve: Modern day cannabis’s only obstacle is funding and permitting in my very honest opinion. The red tape lies within the government. This is what has held us back (being in Los Angeles and its high cost) aside from the fact larger corporations and/or investors do not understand the seed aspect of the industry. It’s hard for a mom and pop style company to compete with big box brands that have millions behind them.

WB: How do you overcome them?

Swerve: Persistence and drive, you just cannot give up. My company is 12 years old; I have been raided two times and lost it all. To get back up and keep fighting for what I believed in. You have to keep fighting for what you believe in or nothing will ever change. For you or for anyone else in a similar position. Which is why I am still here pushing forward no matter what. As a Multiple Sclerosis patient, I know the healing properties this plant carries on down to yes, the recreational side of the plant as well. It works that is the truth.

WB: Do you have a favorite food memory from childhood?

Swerve: My Grandma’s Strawberry Delight dessert for my birthdays growing up. My God is it delicious!

WB: What is your favorite kind of food today?

Swerve: Italian food of course, My Mom’s version of focaccia. Bellissima. I also cook a mean steak so…Then you have the sweets. I mean I’m Italian, we love our desserts and pastries, the cookies. Lol., Now I am hungry…

WB: What is your passion?

Swerve: My passion is to help others. I mean I have a passion for nature and growing but the truth is. I live to help, that’s me. My goal to is not only help people see that hardcore pharmaceuticals are not good for you and we can have a true natural alternative that actually WORKS.

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An Introduction to Cannabis Genetics, Part III

Dr. CJ Schwartz discusses polyploidy, epigenetics, sex determination and GMOs as they relate to Cannabis.

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Polyploidy in Cannabis

Polyploidy is defined as containing more than two homologous sets of chromosomes. Most species are diploid (all animals) and chromosomal duplications are usually lethal, even partial duplications have devastating effects (Down’s syndrome). Plants are unique as in being able to somewhat “tolerate” chromosomal duplications. We often observe hybrid vigor in the F1, while the progeny of the F1 (F2) will produce mostly sickly or dead plants, as the chromosomes are unable to cleanly segregate.

Polyploids are generated when chromosomes fail to separate (non-disjunction) during pollen and egg generation. The chromosomes normally exist in pairs, thus having only one, or three, interferes in pairing in subsequent generations.

Chromosomal duplications, either one chromosome or the whole genome, happen frequently in nature, and actually serves as a mechanism for evolution. However the vast majority (>99.99%) results in lethality.

Thus there is polyploidy in Cannabis, and a few examples are supported by scientific evidence. The initial hybrid may show superior phenotypes and can be propagated through cloning, but there may be little potential for successful breeding with these plants.

Epigenetics and Phenotypic Consistency in Clones

One mechanism of turning off genes is by the DNA becoming physically inaccessible due to a structure resembling a ball. In addition, making molecules similar to DNA (RNA) that prevents expression of a gene can turn off certain genes. Both mechanisms are generally termed epigenetics.

These mice are genetically identical, yet their coat color phenotype is variable. Something above or beyond (epi) the gene (genetic) is controlling the phenotype.

Epigenetic regulation is often dependent on concentrations of certain proteins. Through the repeated process of cloning, it is possible that some of these proteins may be diluted, due to so many total cell divisions and epigenetic control of gene expression can be attenuated and results in phenotypic variability.

Sexual reproduction, and possibly tissue culture propagation, may re-establish complete epigenetic gene regulation, however the science is lacking. Epigenetic gene regulation is one of the hottest scientific topics and is being heavily investigated in many species including humans.

Hermaphrodites and Sex Determination

Cannabis is an extremely interesting genus (species?) for researching sex determination. Plants are usually either monoecious (both male and female organs on a single plant), or dioecious, separate sexes. Sex determination has evolved many times in many species. Comparing the mechanisms of sex determination in different organisms provides valuable opportunities to contrast and compare, thereby developing techniques to control sex determinations.

The sex organs on a Cannabis plant identified.

Cannabis is considered a male if it contains a Y-chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes. Even though female Cannabis plants do not have the “male” chromosome, they are capable of producing viable pollen (hermaphrodite) that is the source of feminized seeds. Therefore, the genes required to make pollen are NOT on the Y-chromosome, but are located throughout the remainder of the Cannabis genome. However, DNA based tests are available to identify Male Associated Sequence (MAS) that can be used as a test for the Y-chromosome in seedlings/plants.

Natural hermaphrodites may have resulted from Polyploidization (XXXY), or spontaneous hermaphrodites could be a result of epigenetic effects, which may be sensitive to the environment and specific chemical treatments.

Feminized seeds will still have genes segregating, thus they are not genetically identical. This shouldn’t lead to a necessary decrease in health, but could. A clone does not have this problem.

The other issue is that “inbreeding depression” is a common biological phenomenon, where if you are too inbred, it is bad…like humans. Feminized seeds are truly inbred. Each generation will decrease Heterozygosity, but some seeds (lines) may be unhealthy and thus are not ideal plants for a grower.

GMO– The Future of Cannabis?

Is there GMO (genetically modified organism) Cannabis? Probably, but it is likely in a lab somewhere…deep underground! Companies will make GMO Cannabis. One huge advantage to doing so is that you create patentable material…it is unique and it has been created.

The definition of a GMO is…well, undefined. New techniques exist whereby a single nucleotide can be changed out of 820 million and no “foreign” DNA remains in the plant. If this nucleotide change already exists in the Cannabis gene pool, it could happen naturally and may not be considered a GMO. This debate will continue for years or decades.

Proponents of GMO plants cite the substantial increase in productivity and yield, which is supported by science. What remains to be determined, and is being studied, are the long-term effects on the environment, ecosystem and individual species, in both plants and animals. Science-based opponent arguments follow the logic that each species has evolved within itself a homeostasis and messing with its genes can cause drastic changes in how this GMO acts in the environment/ecosystem (Frankenstein effect). Similarly, introducing an altered organism into a balanced ecosystem can lead to drastic changes in the dynamics of the species occupying those ecological niches. As in most things in life, it is not black and white; what is required is a solid understanding of the risks of each GMO, and for science to prove or disprove the benefits and risks of GMO crops.