With medical marijuana laws in 23 states and legalization in four, cannabis cultivation is popping off. Many amateurs report losing time and money upon the first major snag in the process: sexing the plants.
Few grasp the plant comes in male and female forms. Male pollen ruins the potency of unfertilized female flower buds (sensimilla). Normally, germinating marijuana seeds and sexing saplings is a matter of luck, but breeders are increasingly offering seeds that take luck out of the equation.
Expert cultivator and author Jorge Cervantes writes, “To the best of my knowledge there is no way to distinguish male from female seeds. You plant ten and hope maybe five are female, then kill the males. When 8 or all 10 are males, in a $100 ten-pack — you can see why gardeners are reaching for sure-shot, “feminized” seeds.”
“Feminized” seeds only flower female, and come from a process that alters normal seed development. Dutch Passion Seeds’ owner, Henk, popularized feminized seeds in the late 1990s, Cervantes states.
Some of the best breeders in the world offer feminized lines and more join them every day. They’re big in Europe, representing over 90% of sales in some countries, states Green House seeds. Feminized genetics are ideal for quick and easy growing and flowering, Sensi Seeds writes. “With feminized seeds, gardeners decide how many bushes they want, germinate that number of seeds, then simply grow, flower and reap their rewards. Breeders make feminized seeds by stressing a female plant into growing male sex features like pollen, and then using this pollen to fertilize another female. The resulting seeds lack male chromosomes. Stressing products in use include eliteXelite, the hormone giberillic acid, or the more popular silver thiosulfate solution”, Cervantes said.
There is little difference in aroma, flavor, and THC levels between a regular and ‘fem’ variety, High Times reports. But feminized seeds got a bad reputation due to early efforts with plants that had high hermaphroditic tendencies.
“The problem with this method is that subsequent generations will have the same latent intersex tendencies. Stress also brings on inter¬sex tendencies earlier,” said Cervantes.
Modern techniques coax pollen from highly unhermaphroditic strains, but they’re still not the best mothers.
Hard core growers turn their nose up at feminized seeds, Cannabis Culture writes, and prefer mother plants and clones. But outside The Netherlands and North America (where shipping seeds breaks federal law) cloning isn’t as popular.
Feminized seeds are great for growers without access to clean clones, or for demoing an exotic strain you can’t get in clone form locally, or for folks that don’t want to clone their own — especially newcomers, and guerrilla growers.
“More people are trying their hand at gardening than ever,” said Cervantes. “It’s unbelievable now — it really is.”