Pheno-Hunting is such an important part of understanding how Cannabis has grown to become what it is today and is arguably the quintessential part of breeding a new Cannabis strain. Breeding strains is pretty simple, all things considered. You get a male Cannabis strain and have it pollinate a female Cannabis strain. Afterwards the female Cannabis strain will produce seeds. From there you dig in and begin the hunt! But what exactly is a pheno-hunt?
To put it simply, Pheno-hunting is breeding a new strain and taking the seeds from that strain, planting however many a breeder decides and then after they grow each seed, they will pick the one out of the group that represents the best qualities and characteristics that the breeder is looking for.i These characteristics are (usually) smell, color, potency, resin production, height, grow time, and yield. No strain is ever going to be perfect, but some breeders will spend years growing seed after seed until they are finally satisfied, and this process is all so much more complex than simply the birds and the bees.
One of the most important parts of phenohunting is marking down the different phenos that you are researching. More often than not, they can be marked with numbers or letters, ie Chaos Kush #3. The ‘#3’ symbolizes that it is the third one of the group of phenos hunted that made the cut. Doesn’t mean Chaos Kush #2 was bad, but rather than #3 was simply a better representation of the parents of Chaos Kush. But it gets even more complex from here.
Sometimes breeders will like a pheno so much that they will turn around and breed it with itself. This is where you would see breeders use vocabulary like “Bx1” or “F2” or “S1” but what do they mean? Let’s break it down:
- -F1 stands for “First Generation Hybrid.” This means it is the first generation off-spring from your initial plant. In other words, the strain has been picked, the pheno has been hunted and selected and “F1” is the first of that new batch. F2 would then stand for “Second-Generation Hybrid” which would essentially be an F1 Batch bred with another F1 batch producing even stronger genetics and characteristics for that newly bred strain. F2 strains are bred to create F3, and on and on.ii
- S1 stands for “selfing.” Selfing is a chemically induced process in which a breeder will stress out
a female plant. That female plant will then produce male flowers. Those Male flowers will then
pollinate the female plant which, in effect, is the plant essentially pollinating itself to produce
even stronger genetics.iii
- IBL stands for “Inbred line seeds.” IBL Seeds are descendants from F1 seeds. IBL seeds become. available after the 5th generation of F1 seeds. So, if you decided you wanted to purchase quality genetics, you would ideally be looking for IBL seeds.iv
- BX stands for back-cross or back-crossing. Back-crossing seeds is when you take an F1 (or F2 or F3) and breed it with the original parent plants. This results in Bx1 seeds. You can find Bx2, Bx3 which just means the new generation of back-crossed seeds are then once again bred with the original parent plant. This is to preserve a particular characteristic of the original parent strain. v
- Finally, Fast seeds are when a breeder has finalized the genetics—they have finished the back crossing and hybridizing and have settled on their prized genetics. They will turn around, breed that plant with Ruderalis (A very sturdy, non-psychoactive branch of cannabis) which help plants auto-flowervi and flower faster. Fast seeds are great for beginners!
When growing Cannabis strains there are two main factors to consider: Environment, which is your lighting, your tent, your ph levels and nutrients, etc. The other main factor is genetics. Having quality genetics is, quite literally, half the battle. Quality genetics can be extremely expensive, with some exclusive phenos going for thousands of dollars for maybe only a clone or two or a pack of seeds. Rightfully so! Breeders can spend years and years looking for the perfect pheno. Furthermore, understanding phenohunting really opens the door to a broader understanding of cannabis. This will further help you explain to consumers why the Blue Dream they tried in Colorado is so much different than the Blue Dream they tried here in Massachusetts.
Next week we will talk about Cannabinoids, Terpenes, Full Spectrum, and the Entourage effect! ~Sutten
Auto-Flowering is when a cannabis strain is bred to automatically transition from vegetative state to the flowering state. Normally, the flowering state needs to be induced on a plant by adjusting the growing settings.
That is not the case with auto-flowering plants, they will flower on their own without any further adjustment. Also good for beginners!