What is Cannabis Breeding

What is cannabis breeding?

Cannabis breeding refers to the sexual reproduction of cannabis plants that involves the cross-pollination of two plants. This can be done with either pure strains or by crossing two-hybrid strains.

Cannabis breeding is usually done by experienced cultivators who want to create their custom strain. They may want to experiment with new desired traits or plant characteristics, or they may want to preserve a specific strain they particularly like. Cannabis breeders will select flavors, terpenes, smell, yield, hardiness, and potency. Most breeders also focus on creating plants that are easy to grow.

Cultivators who breed their plants often want to develop new cannabis strains to share them and distribute seeds or clones to other growers.

This process is called cannabis breeding because it can produce offspring that combine both parent plants and have desirable characteristics from each. Read on to find out more about cannabis breeding.

How does cannabis breeding work?

The cannabis breeding program is a delicate dance of genetic evolution. It's not as simple as "crossing two things and getting their baby. "That said, it is an art form that has been perfected over thousands of years. And it's rapidly evolving right now in your local dispensary. Let's look at how breeding works and what that means for the future of cannabis genetics.

The breeding process starts with the selection process. Here you will pick cannabis seeds that produce the best phenotype or cultivar. The best way to explain how it works is to use an example. Let's assume that you want to breed a cannabis variety with a sweet, citrusy taste and high yields. You will need to find parents with those traits.

If you have the knowledge, skills, and time, you can grow plants yourself and select your own parent strains. This allows you to see the plants develop and choose the most desirable characteristics. You may also find seeds or clones of plants already known to possess the needed traits. In the case above, most breeders use the strain Cali-O to produce citrusy-tasting varieties.

Since marijuana is dioecious, male and female cannabis plants grow separately. Reproduction occurs differently than in plants that reproduce sexually through self-fertilization or selfing. Cannabis breeding occurs when a male plant's pollen comes into contact with a female plant's ovule.

Did you know cannabis has a diploid genome? That means each cannabis plant has two copies of each chromosome, where genes are found. So those two copies can combine during reproduction to mix up the genes.

The chromosomes come from sex cells produced by male flowers (pollen sacs) and female flowers (ovules). These sex cells combine to give each offspring a copy of each parent's genes during breeding.

Since each plant has two copies of every gene, it's also possible to acquire multiple versions of a particular gene by crossing two different plants together. By using this method, breeders can make new selections for specific traits and then grow those selections to produce offspring with more desirable traits than those of either parent plant.

Breeding is a scientific approach that can improve specific characteristics in cannabis. Growers can select specific traits such as yield, aroma, and resistance to disease or adverse environmental conditions through breeding. This process has resulted in hundreds of unique cultivars (strains) being produced in recent decades, including some that are high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or other cannabinoids.

Why is breeding important?

While some people prefer to grow their cannabis, not everyone has the time or patience. Cannabis can be a finicky plant, and there are plenty of reasons why it may not work out – no matter how hard you try.

The good news is that you don't need to be a skilled horticulturalist to enjoy the benefits of your own cannabis strain. That's because cannabis breeding can be used to cultivate crops that are a lot more resilient and easy to grow than others.

For example, one plant might have a shorter flowering time but be vulnerable to pests, while another plant might have more excellent resistance to pests but a longer flowering time. These two strains could be crossed to produce offspring that combine the desirable traits from both strains — in this case, resistance to pests and a shorter flowering time.

It's also worth noting that in many cases, cannabis breeding can be used to produce strains that are more powerful than usual. There are even strains on the market today that can exceed 30% THC, which is an incredibly high concentration compared with what was available in the past.

With this approach, cannabis cultivators choose plants from an existing population with the best characteristics and cross them with other plants with the same desirable traits. By continuing this process over several generations, the population will slowly shift away from undesirable characteristics and toward desired ones.

The process of selective breeding occurs over multiple generations. Crossing a strain with high resistance to pests but a long flowering time with a variety that produces leafier growth early can help create a plant that begins producing harvestable plants faster while maintaining resistance to pests. A breeder might continue this process over several generations, but as the number of generations increases, so does the amount of genetic variation between offspring within each generation. These generations are often called F1 Hybrids, F2 Hybrids, etc.

What are the different types of breeding?

The three main types of plant breeding are inbreeding, line breeding, and outcrossing.

  • Inbreeding is when you take two close relatives and mate them together. An example might be a brother to sister, father to daughter, mother to son, half-brother to half-sister, or cousins. Inbreeding results in a uniform population that grows well and may develop a brand new trait (desirable or not).
  • Linebreeding is similar to inbreeding but slightly less intense. An example would be uncle to niece or aunt to nephew. Linebreeding will also result in a uniform population with a higher chance of developing a new trait that can be bred into the strain more quickly than with an outcrossed breed.
  • Outcrossing is the process of taking two unrelated plants and breeding them together. This results in increased vigor and hybrid vigor but no uniformity and a much higher risk of introducing unwanted traits. This can be useful for developing a new variety by incorporating desirable traits from another variety. Still, for most growers who want high-quality cannabis, it's better to stick with a line or inbred strains that have already gone through the outcrossing process.


Cannabis breeding can take a lot of time, passion, and experience. Breeding cannabis has been said to date back to the past centuries in India, Afghanistan, and China. As cannabis culture thrived through the years, more master growers and breeders came forward with their incredible talents and knowledge of the cannabis plant. There are three different methods of breeding plants: Indica/Sativa Hybrid, Sativa/Indica Hybrid, and Pure Sativa or Pure Indica.

Perhaps it seems like a daunting process to many. However, many reliable resources can help you take the first step towards breeding marijuana strains. They can educate you on how to breed cannabis, and they can give you a clear understanding of what cannabis breeding is all about. Growers who want to improve their yields and quality of life should try their hand at marijuana breeding.