Before legalization, most cannabis breeding was done with very limited numbers of plants to select from, and almost entirely with the aim of increasing yield and THC content. For these reasons many alleles—or specific variants of a gene that code for different traits—were lost. Some of these alleles contributed to the plant’s ability to survive, and reintroducing them into modern strains could result in plants that are more productive, disease resistant, and stress tolerant.

Enter the Seed Enthusiast! Dedicated seed collectors have been putting away cannabis seeds for decades, and there are many important collections. Despite the value of these seeds to our industry, many people are too afraid to try to germinate old seeds for fear of destroying them. There is very little good data on the viability of cannabis seeds in storage, but there are corollaries in mainstream agriculture. A date palm was grown from seeds that were 2000 years old a few years back, and the seeds of many other plants have been extensively researched. I also know an orchid grower who germinated 35 year old cannabis seeds from Afghan cannabis with a 75% success rate just by planting them.

More study is needed to determine the optimal methods for germinating old cannabis seed so that we can restore vigor and variety to the sea of cannabis strains on the market. If we want better cannabis, we need better genetics. Keep saving those seeds, but I challenge the industry to start cautiously figuring out how to get these genes out of storage and into our crop, the future of cannabis depends on it.

Author:
Andrew Hatch
Director of Product Safety

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