If so, it’s more than likely that you will have already tried a hybrid strain. But what, exactly, is a hybrid, how do we create them and why do we have so many new cannabis strains?
Why are hybrids created?
A hybrid plant (in this case the cannabis plant) is the consequence of cross-pollinating two different types of plant and subsequently growing the seed that the blend produces to create a completely new strain of cannabis. The plant that grows from that seed is then considered to be a hybrid strain.
Hybrid strains are our man-made efforts to customise plants with specific types of characteristics that are usually found in ruderalis, sativa, and indica strains. But why do we do this?
Thanks to the commercialization of the cannabis industry, an increasing number of hybrid strains continue to emerge as breeders mix and remix both pure strains and already existing hybrids. When cannabis is bred to create hybrid strains, all kinds of new strains can be generated, each of them producing their own unique traits and effects.
Typically, most strains are bred to contain a mix of sativa and indica genetics and, depending on their lineage, will contain characteristics from both strains. Successful hybrid strains will inherit the best qualities of the parent plant.
For example, the deliciously sweet Super Lemon Haze (one of this writer’s personal favourites) is a cross between the sativa dominant Super Silver Haze and the Indica favorite Lemon Skunk. This cross-breeding of Super Silver Haze and Lemon Skunk resulted in a Sativa dominant (70/30) strain that took some of the best characteristics from both plants families.
Today, these types of hybrid strains offer new and exciting flavours, terpene variables and different or improved traits that are particularly appealing for some. This has resulted in the creation of a seemingly endless number of cannabis strains for you, the consumer, to choose from.
What are the Main Types of Hybrid?
Typically, there are four types of hybrid strains:
- Sativa plus sativa: Two different sativa varieties that have been bred ogether
- Indica plus indica: Two different indica varieties that have been bred together
- Sativa plus indica: A hybrid with sativa-dominant characteristics but also has traits of both plants
- Indica plus sativa: A hybrid with indica-dominant characteristics but also has traits of both plants
The hybrid strains that we see now are the result of a lengthy breeding and selection process that is conducted by expert breeders from across the cannabis industry. These breeders (or strain-hunters as they are known) are always looking to develop and improve their techniques to create new and exciting cannabis strains.
Flavours, effects, duration, adaptability to the environment and the life cycle are just some of the vital elements that the strain-hunters are looking to improve upon when they create a new type of hybrid strain.
Of course, creating a stable genetic line to ensure that all offspring will exhibit these very specific traits is a challenging and lengthy process.
Thankfully, with years of breeding experience, the experts in the industry (with a lot of selection work), have been able to obtain strains whose offspring exhibit the most desirable traits in a high proportion and as such, can create a line of stable genetics.
Hybrids – The Latest Cannabis Craze? Not Quite…
While the proliferation of hybrids seems to have occurred only in recent years, selective breeding of cannabis strains dates back as far as the 1970s.
Throughout the years, those techniques and skills practiced by the world’s most talented breeders have been honed and crafted to give cannabis consumers more choice than ever before.
Thanks to increased legality and a dramatic cultural shift in how cannabis is viewed by society, cannabis popularity has steadily risen in recent years with the plant now receiving more positive media exposure than ever before.
With an industry that is expected to top $100 billion by 2025, it is little wonder that breeders are increasingly looking to develop the next big strain in the cannabis world.
F1 Hybrids – Explained
To get a strong ‘stable’ hybrid strain, breeders combine the strongest specimens in their collections to create what is known as an F1 hybrid (Filial 1), or in layman’s terms, a ‘first child’ plant.
F1 hybrids contain the dominant genes from both plants and also exhibit some of the same qualities as their parent plants that helps to create a unique combination.
These combinations don’t occur naturally though. This allows seed brands to maintain their versions of different strains for their own commercial purposes.
Plants grown from F1 hybrids tend to have better strength and survival rates than specimens of a single genetic line. These hybrids are characterized by the visible qualities their genes produce and their phenotype. Typically they can either be pungent or subtle, stocky or gangly, bushy or with long branches and more isolated buds.
Modern lab testing has provided us with more specifics on the genetics of each strain (its genotype) and allowed for even more successful cross-breeding.
Indeed, cannabis breeding has become something of an art form in recent years. The mixing of the three main types of cannabis: Sativa, indica, and ruderalis has become so standardized that it’s increasingly difficult to make the distinction between each category.
Instead, the pure and original or regular strains are increasingly hard to find in the general recreational market and most modern strains are cultivated varieties (cultivars), expertly bred through the years to maximize their genetic potential.
Cannabis and Hybrids – An Exciting Future
As cannabis begins to shake off the shackles of illegality, stigma, and misinformation, an increasing level of research, investment and scientific analysis on this wonderful plant are now taking place. With more and more countries considering a path towards full cannabis legislation and legality, the possibility to further study the full effects of cannabis and cannabinoids is now expected in the coming months and years.
Slowly but surely, our collective understanding of what cannabis can do, how it can be used and which strains suit our individual needs is beginning to rise and rise.
With the cannabis market growing so markedly, both for medicinal and recreational uses, an increasing number of cannabis researchers are now leading the call for more attention to the specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles of different strains.
Among the leading voices is renowned Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam whose research team first isolated CBD and THC in the lab in the 1960s and later confirmed the existence of the human endocannabinoid system in the human body in the ’90s.
Mechoulam has suggested that today’s increasingly accurate cannabinoid and terpene profiling will be the way towards truly personalized cannabis-based medicine: matching the genetics of the plant to the genetics of the person, to help produce a strain with a tailored cannabinoid profile for their specific condition.
Sativa or Indica? It’s not as Relevant as You Might Think…
Until recently, cannabis marketability has suffered for a variety of reasons but none more so than the general misunderstanding and lack of knowledge on the plant’s effects on its consumers. For most, their understanding of the effects is limited merely to a basic understanding of the differences between sativa and indica plants (sativa for a mood high, indica for a body relaxer).
However, as any experienced cannabis consumers will tell you, these two categories are far too narrow to offer much in the way of a real explanation of the full effects of the strain and are generally quite subjective depending on the individual. Even armed with this basic sativa/indica knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily help consumers to be able to distinguish what the strain’s effects will be for them. Indeed, the effects of one strain on one user can vary quite wildly on another user.
As such, much more attention is now being focussed on cannabis terpenes and the specific effects of cannabinoids on our ECS (Endocannabinoid System). Clearly, our understanding of cannabis and its effects needs to extend much further than merely a rudimentary and outdated sativa\indica measuring stick.
The reality is that the effects of any cannabis strain have much more to do with the plant’s cannabinoids and terpene profile rather than the plant’s indica or sativa dominance.
Given that we now have thousands and thousands of cannabis strains on offer, it is becoming increasingly important that cannabis experts and research scientists forage a clear path to deeper cannabis knowledge and better scientific understanding in the future.
And while the choice on offer for cannabis consumers has never been greater, it seems particularly vital that more information about what strains are best suited for each individual consumer is provided.
With greater variety comes greater demand and with it, it is surely now inevitable that these wonderful plants full benefits and wide-ranging effects will be understood in far greater detail in the years to come.