By Cecilia Leigh Howard
What is it?
The process of pheno hunting begins with genotypes and phenotypes. Let’s break down what this means. Genotypes represent the various possibilities in genetic makeup, based on the origins of the plant. Through which traits emerge as the plant germinates and continues to grow, the phenotype reveals itself. Phenotypes reveal themselves in the actual genetic makeup of the plant, demonstrated through various characteristics: flavor, aroma, potency, bud density, color, shape & yield.
Why this process?
Pheno hunting mimics the process behind human genetics. Two plants with the same parents have the potential to generate a number of genetic combinations, or genotypes, which in turn result in different variations of the same hybrid. However, the process can further be tailored to ensure the next generation of plants is consistent with the last. By starting the process with the same strains, grown to flower and cloned, pheno hunting excludes the possibility of creating different variations of that same hybrid. The process of pheno hunting ensures a measure of crop consistency, a baseline which can be replicated to serve generations to come.
The cannabis industry is far from new. Yet under the current guise of clouded legislation, medical marijuana patients as well as the companies that serve them may encounter difficulties in understanding their rights. We live in a world where cannabis is given with prescription, offered as a cure or supplement to various ailments. While the surrounding legalities have struggled to keep up, the cannabis industry has continued to perform. In order for cannabis to compete medicinally alongside Big Pharma, consistency is key, and one aspect which is currently lacking. Homemade or homegrown product has the potential to be fiercely scrutinized in the eyes of federal and state legislators. Pheno hunting offers the potential for companies involved in the industry to deliver consistent product to their customers, while simultaneously steering clear of overbearing government evaluation.
How do I start?
This is where most of the work comes in. If you’re setting yourself up for genetic consistency in the long run, starting with quality seed is paramount. To take note of in this process: these seedlings are fragile, take ample time to harvest, and contain the most room for error. We recommend beginning with strains you’re familiar with, or would care to master. Germinate your seeds. Analyze their growth, speed of germination, stem strength, trichomes, aroma, resistance to pests and mold, everything. Once your seedlings have grown 6’’- 12’’, they are large enough to clone. This is the first round of elimination as you begin to narrow down to the strongest of your plants. Depending on how many rounds of elimination you’d like to do, it will take at least 2 generations to downsize your plants to the lightning round, which consists of two finalists. This process will land you at your strongest plant, determining which will preside as the “Mother” going forward.
How does it work?
Once you have your “Mother” chosen: after completing what would be a regular vegetative period, cut clones of that flower. This leaves the Mother in the vegetative light cycle, with the clones ready to begin their flower period light cycle. These clones are now your final product to continue cloning or harvesting as you please.
How will this process help the industry?
Through pheno hunting, our industry will be able to step up the quality of its genetics, in addition to limiting the time needed to grow. As superior genetics are passed down, higher potency plants and those with myriad medicinal benefits are able to be both refined and cross-bred to create new hybrids. The majority of products available, specifically flower, are derived from hybrids. Pheno hunting can usher a sense of stability into the industry, allowing for consistent generations of plants and products, in conjunction with the added confidence in the eyes of growers and the government. Pheno hunting opens up a world of possibilities for the cannabis industry to take charge of their own quality and embrace their worth.
Cecilia Leigh Howard
Social Media Handle(s): IG: @cecileighowa
NY MMJP, SAG-AFTRA actress & cannabis advocate, working in cannabis for 5 years all over North America, budtending, trimming or cultivating.
She is a writer, copyeditor & social media contributor for the Honey Pot by Honeysuckle Magazine.