In our last article, we explained that seeds will always produce slightly different versions of the same strain. This is both good and bad.
On the one hand, it’s nice that we even though we might all be growing the same strain, we won’t all have the exact same plant. That would be kinda boring, right?
On the other hand, once you have isolated a phenotype that you want to preserve – screw the others – how do you keep this one? And how do you go about finding it in the first place? This article will answer these questions.
You should be Phenotyping Your Cannabis Strains
As we explained in the last article, when a female plant produces seeds, this is the same as a mother bearing children. And just as human brothers and sisters will share both similarities and differences in eye color, hair color, personality, etc – seeds from a plant will also produce different brothers and sisters of the same strain. Cannabis cultivators refer to these different versions of plants as “phenotypes”
Phenotyping is the naming/numbering of different phenos of the same strain, and then recording that data.
To phenotype, you would first plant all of your seeds, and then assign a number to each one. You would thereafter take a clone from each seedling and keep track of the numbers, so the clones and seedlings match up.
As you continue to take clones, you would continue to track the numbers, so that you always know where your bud came from, down to the exact plant number from the original batch of seeds.
You should “hunt” for the best phenotype, and select it to be a Mother Plant
Pheno-Hunting refers to the act of sorting through different phenotypes of the same strain. The objective is to find and isolate the phenotype that represents the ultimate expression of the strain’s signature traits, or preferred traits.
If this already sounds like too much work, stay with me, we are going to break this down for you and get you on board. Because if you are not pheno-hunting your strains, you are wasting time and money.
Every Grower Should Pheno Hunt
Every grower should pheno hunt, as opposed to just popping seeds and accepting what you get. If you don’t plan to pheno hunt, then you should buy clones from someone who has already hunted many phenos before settling on one worth cloning.
Pheno-hunting is hard work. It’s okay if you don’t want to do it. But you must have someone in your network who is cut out for the work and who has the proper set-up to do it correctly. Or else you will be missing out in your exploration of what these plants have to offer.
There is no reason you should be growing substandard phenos in your garden. Grow only the winners. This is what the pros do. And you should too. This guide will show you how.
Step by Step instructions for pheno-hunting your cannabis strains:
Step 1: Start with many Seeds
Start with a dozen or so seeds of the same strain. You can do more or less seeds. But the bigger the batch, the better your chances of finding something truly special. So shoot for twenty seeds of the same strain.
Plant your seeds. You can do this in a red Solo cup.
Step 2: Number each seed
You would then number each of those seeds. When the seeds sprout and become seedlings, you will need to grow them about 2 weeks or until they are capable of being cloned.
Step 3: Clone each Seedling
Once the plants have grown to a stable size, take a clone from each seedling. Document which number belongs to which clone. Write that down.
You now should have a clone from each of your numbered seedlings. Do not begin flowering your seedlings until that clone has rooted.
Step 4: Keep the Clones in a Vegetative State
Once your clones have rooted, you may then flower the seedlings. While the seedlings are in their flower cycle, you must keep the clone versions in a vegetative state.
Step 5: Document Everything During Flower and After Harvest
Take notes during your flower cycle of these phenos. Note the differences in how they grow, and what they look like. Note differences in size and structure.
When it comes time to harvest, just do not confuse or lose your numbers! Keep a tag on all of your plants as they hang dry.
Once your plants have finished drying, continue to keep them numbered as you trim them up. When you are finished trimming, you will place your nugs in jars that are labeled with the number from each phenotype.
Step 6: Select the “Ideal” Phenotype, and Discard the other clones
You decide which pheno(s) to keep. Take into account all factors, including bag appeal, flavor, aroma, and yield. Also, compare notes you took during the flowering period regarding how they grew.
Out of 20 phenotypes, you really should narrow it down to 3 or less.
Now you go back to the clones and you trash all the other phenos, and keep only the one(s) you selected. That will be your new mom and now you can forever clone this desired expression of that strain.
Now, to add more strains to your repertoire, you merely repeat the process, but with a new bag of seeds.