Preserving Cannabis Biodiversity: The Importance of Heirloom Seeds

The last two years have witnessed increased cannabis legalization in and outside the United States. Some states have legalized cannabis for recreational and medical use. Others have allowed it for medical purposes only. This legalization wave has opened doors for individuals and commercial farmers to venture into its cultivation.

The need for weed cultivation has also given growers options. They can choose to grow different seed types available on the market, such as landrace, hybrid, or heirloom seeds. This diversity benefits growers and the general environment, but many beginners find it hard to identify the seed type and growing specifics associated with each of them.

Our discussion is dedicated to the differences between these diverse seed options, plus their advantages. You will also learn more about maintaining a biodiverse environment with the help of heirloom seeds. Keep reading to learn more.

Heirloom Versus Hybrid Seeds

Sometimes people have challenges differentiating heirlooms from landrace and hybrid cannabis strains. Therefore, let’s start by defining each and explaining their specifics.

Heirloom Seeds

In the cannabis world, heirloom cannabis seeds are those that have existed for many generations. These strains contain the purest genetics because nobody has ever crossbred them with other strains. Heirloom seeds developed via natural pollination through birds, wild animals, insects, and sometimes human activity.

So, how do these seeds differ from landrace and hybrid variants? Let’s start with landrace strains before moving to hybrids. There is no big essential difference between landrace and heirloom marijuana strains, as a landrace strain usually grows in its native environment where it has grown for generations. The only difference is that heirloom seeds have been transferred from their original habitat to another location.

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This means that heirloom cannabis is a natural breed that has moved elsewhere. The difference is more logistical than natural. As for the heirloom and hybrid seeds, the dissimilarity comes based on the human manipulation of one strain. Breeders usually mix different cultivars’ genetics and manipulate their qualities to achieve a certain combined genotype. For instance, they crossbreed a particular strain with another to get a certain CBD or THC level. They may also cross various strains to achieve a certain aroma, flavor, or higher pest resistance levels. Thus, these new emerging strains don’t contain the entire original genetics their landrace or heirloom ancestors had.

Why Are Heirloom Seeds Important?

Now you know the differences between heirloom seeds and other seed variants. Let’s proceed and examine why these seeds are important in a diversified cannabis ecosystem. Below are the top benefits of heirloom seeds in a cannabis environment and to growers.

  • Stable genetics. DIY cannabis cultivators must know that growing heirloom seeds is easier than cultivating hybrid variants. The reason is that hybrid strains can, at times, be unstable. Smaller seed bank patrons can experience these issues as excessive sativa or indica characteristics. Inversely, heirloom cannabis seeds are stable and unchangeable. They become landrace or native to their regions without changing the genotype. This way, you can always grow your marijuana knowing what to expect in the garden.
  • Higher and balanced CBD/THC ratios. Unlike manipulated strains, heirloom cannabis doesn’t have excessively high THC levels. Thus, the buds are less likely to give users unwanted adverse effects like paranoia and anxiety. Additionally, natural cannabis can contain higher cannabinoid levels and produce greater therapeutic effects. However, manipulating cannabis genes significantly influences their effects, flavor, and cannabinoid production. Consequently, the hybrid product feels less pure, an essential hallmark every heirloom breed boasts of. Growing heirlooms guarantees farmers balanced CBD, THC, and terpene levels that have been created by nature, not human beings. This balanced CBD level makes these strains more suitable for medicinal use.
  • More eclectic terpene blends. All heirlooms have terpene profiles providing users with unique flavors and effects.
  • Suited for breeding. These strains are vital because they are suitable for breeding. These seeds are excellent breeding candidates because they have stable genetics. Growers have a good idea of the strain their offspring will have. Crossing two heirlooms has the same effect as crossbreeding two IBLs because it reverses inbreeding depression that causes a degree of hybrid vigor in an offspring.
  • Generational heritage. Lastly, these seeds are great because they have been here for many generations. Their existence framework is the main reason they have their name. Therefore, you can bank on their longevity to get stable and better cannabis offspring.  

Hybrid Cannabis

Hybrid cannabis is breed breeders create by intentionally crossbreeding two different strains. Their crossbreeding goals usually differ, ranging from seeking a particular flavor to achieving a certain THC or CBD level. The resulting offspring contains the best traits from its parents. During hybridization, breeders carefully control everything to achieve their desired goals.

The process can take several years before developing a good, genetically stable hybrid strain. An excellent example are the Black Mamba seeds https://askgrowers.com/seeds/black-mamba-seeds-feminized, which come with an extra high THC content (up to 28%) and at the same time preserve their Indica features. When breeding is done correctly, these strains can have great taste and productivity levels. They can also exhibit improved disease resistance to increase the yields in your growing garden. Some of the general characteristics of these strains include the following:

  • Greater reliability;
  • Lower care and maintenance requirements;
  • Early maturing and flowering;
  • Increased yield capacity;
  • Enhanced flavor;
  • Specific plant size;
  • Better disease resistance.

Why Cannabis Biodiversity Matters

We have examined the importance and benefits of the various cannabis strains. You can choose from heirloom or hybrid diversities based on your cultivation needs and preferences. But why is this diversity vital to the farmer and the overall cannabis ecosystem? Let’s examine these issues to give you a better understanding of the weed cultivation industry.

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Just like with other plants, monoculture is common in cannabis cultivation. However, we would like to underscore that monoculture doesn’t only refer to growing a single crop in a large area. It also includes growing cannabis of the same genetic strain or level for a long time. So, diversity helps overcome some of the challenges of monoculture on a given piece of land. Below are some of these negative effects:

Negative Effects on the Environment

Growing the same strain on a piece of land for a long time negatively affects the nearby habitat. Each plant has its interaction with the soil and its surrounding organisms. In a given sense, plants take something from the soil and deposit something back into it. If this process continues for a long time, the elements a particular strain keeps taking from the soil become depleted. This problem is common with nitrogen-depleted plants that used to be rotated with nitrogen-replacing plants the following season. Remember, plants need nitrogen for essential processes like photosynthesis, protein production, and other vital plant health. Without biodiversity, the soil suffers low nitrogen levels hindering successful plant production.

Limitation to One Strategy

Another limitation of monoculture is that it limits growers to one strategy. The problem here is that if a new pathogen attacks a particular crop on which growers depend and succumbs to it, the entire crop becomes vulnerable. The vulnerability is so dangerous that it can wipe out an entire crop species. The risk is extremely high in the modern world, characterized by pathogen dissemination and diversification.  A bad historical example of depending on one crop strain is the Irish Potato Famine in the 19th century. The infamous “Panama disease” also wiped out the Gros Michel banana variety in the 1950s. These cases show why depending on one cannabis strain with little resistance to new pathogens can cause growers losses. When such pathological attacks spread widely, they can cause massive crop failures.

Parting Shot

The ancients were right when they said you shouldn’t carry all your eggs in one basket. The existence of cannabis biodiversity proves this adage. Fortunately, the market offers growers a rich diversity you can choose from to get the best of each strain. This diversity benefits the environment you depend on to keep getting higher yields in the long term.  

Moreover, maintaining this diversity frees you from the shortcomings of separate strains. That means you can choose a strain with the best qualities you want to meet your various cultivation goals. That’s why we explored this rich diversity of cannabis strains at your disposal. Use this information to choose what suits your cultivation needs and goals.

The article was produced by Lana Braslavska, a cannabis blogger at AskGrowers with a huge interest in the weed cultivation industry. Lana studies the old and modern approaches to cannabis growing and shares her findings with the readers to help them adopt safe, sustainable, and rewarding growing methods for high yields and predictable therapeutic effects.

Jeremy Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
On Chain Analysis Data Engineer. Lives in sunny Perth, Australia. Investing and writing about Crypto since 2014.

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