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Ask Erik: How To Create Hybrids Featured

Creating hybrid strains requires attention to detail. Creating hybrid strains requires attention to detail.

 

Q: I have grown quite a few different strains, and in spite of all the selections that are available, there are only a few select varieties that are really popular in my area. I wish I could grow something completely different, but I am a commercial gardener, so I have to deliver what the market demands. However, I want to do it with a twist to make my crop stand out from the others.


My plan is to crossbreed one of my personal favorite varieties with something that’s more popular in the marketplace. The one I like grows like a vine, getting big fast. The yield is good, but it has a pretty long flowering time, usually 14 weeks. The popular strain I want to cross it with grows short and squat, and has, on average, a nine-week flowering period.

What can I expect in the progeny? I have both a male and female in my preferred selection that exhibit similar traits—growth, aroma, and so on—that I can cross with a female clone of the popular selection. Should I emasculate my preferred female and cross with that, or should I cross with the preferred male and select a clone from the offspring? I don’t plan on selling seeds, I just want to grow the best and make my harvest a little different from all of the other crop floating around out there.

A:

Sounds like a very good plan indeed.

You will be creating an F1 (first generation) hybrid, as the parent plants sound like they are from significantly different gene pools. Ideally, what you will see in an F1 hybrid is a good balance between the two different strains, with traits from both parents equally represented in the progeny produced. If there is less stability in the genetics you are crossing, you may expect to see an increased level of variation in the offspring. F1 plants tend to exhibit “hybrid vigor,” which is very advantageous. Ideally, you should wind up with plants that have flowering times, growth habits, flower and fruit qualities, and other traits somewhere right in the middle of the two parent plants.

With any breeding program, big or small, you must be regimented with accurate record keeping, labeling, and observations of each plant in the garden.  

This balanced recombination of genetics gives way to a new genotype, as there has been a mixing of genetic information (DNA). However, anytime you roll the genetic dice, you can expect to see some variation in the offspring, allowing you to select the best candidates as mother plants for clones after starting your first batch of seed plants. This physical expression of genes, as influenced by your particular growing environment and your crop management techniques, is referred to as the phenotype of the plants.

There is a debate out there with regards to using reversed female plants (emasculated) in breeding programs. Most of the Grand Master growers I discuss breeding with (who aren’t selling feminized seeds) tend to think that they get less variation in the seed offspring when using pollen from female plants that have been stimulated to produce male pollen. However, they also feel that if they grow out 100 seed plants from each true male to female crosses (versus emasculated female to female crosses), that the true male to true female crossed seed plants will yield a couple of plants that are truly “special” and are superior to what they could achieve from the reduced variability that appears to arise from emasculated female to pure female crosses.

With any breeding program, big or small, you must be regimented with accurate record keeping, labeling, and observations of each plant in the garden. At harvest, make sure you keep the plant material from individual specimens separate and labeled so you can see which plant had the best yield and offered the best qualities that you or your customers desire. Then compare that with the growth traits exhibited through the cropping cycle. Keep the original seed plants in a constant vegetative state, using only labeled cuttings for the test garden. From there, you can pick your winner; a truly unique plant that nobody else in the world will have.

Cheers,
              Erik Biksa

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Last modified on Friday, 10 August 2012 15:55

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