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How To Identify Expressions When Growing New Genetics

(Particularly from seed)
By Colin Gordon and Ben Owens

The flowering expression of plants will change as they mature. When growing from seed the expressions of the clone of that plant will be different than the original; I notice that distinction for the first two rounds of cloning (for a minimum of six months). When pheno-hunting, I don’t make any final decisions until seeing the plant in these multiple phases. Cloning ensures that you don’t lose a specific cut or pheno until you’re ready to cull it.

From Seed to Clone: Identifying Winners in Your Stable

There can be significant changes in expression from seed to clone. The best way to identify these expressions is to flower from seed, and then, after that cycle has completed, flower your clones to see the potential of the plant. As a plant matures and is now grown from clone lt typically loses some size but the overall quality increases with relatively higher percentages of both cannabinoids and terpenes in the final buds.

Why clones?

The plant continues to make hormonal changes for approximately six months. Cloning creates a new plant that takes on the age of the seed it comes from; clones allow a plant’s genetics to outlive its annual life cycle. When you take a clone, that cutting (and resulting clone) begin at the age of the plant that it was cut from, giving them a genetic head start of sorts.

Typically, a photo-period cannabis plant isn’t capable of flowering until it’s a minimum of 4-6 weeks old. I prefer to let them veg for 6-7 weeks, depending on the variety, before I flower but often I will “force flower” in week 5, where they don’t go into flowering as quickly but I’m just trying to get them into flower as quickly as possible or because of height restrictions. This typically results in an average lifespan (seed to jar) of about four months. While you can veg a plant for a longer period of time to get the full distinction and quality of the flower, cloning successive generations within the first few months accomplishes this process in a more efficient manner. Longer flowering plants take longer to show full distinction.

NOTE: It is not that the plant is grown from clone that allows it to produce different and sometimes superior quality characteristics. Rather, it is the age of the genetics that allows the plant to acquire its full hormonal maturity.

Distinction and Quality Increase with Maturity

Expressions evolve until the age of about 6-8 months, then plateau and stabilize. If you keep cloning at month three and then month four and then month five and so forth, you would see more distinction. You will typically see more distinct expressions coming out of that flower that you otherwise wouldn’t see such as terpenes (in both profile and concentration) as well as color dynamics, calyx-to-leaf ratio and vibrant anthocyanins that come on with age, particularly purples, blues and blacks.

The qualities of a plant will increase through cloning as you allow the plant to mature but that doesn’t mean you can’t root and fruit from seed as well. Some varieties simply have a much more dramatic change in clone from when first run from seed. Growing commercially from seed will inevitably yield less distinction between varieties.

I’ve had good results and high cannabinoids and high terpenes when growing from seed but there will unequivocally be (strain-dependent) some increase in cannabinoids and terpenes as a plant gets its full maturity and distinction.

Recommendations for Identifying Distinction of Expressions

Clone every seed you plant. Anything that’s not culled is cloned. Typically, I’ll take 2 clones of every seed that’s going into flower (before flower or within the first two weeks) to make new moms. Then, 6-8 weeks later, I’ll take a couple more clones from those new moms. This allows these plants to reach 5-6 months prior to flowering and their successive clones will have the most distinct expressions.