You might be an expert on many different aspects of cannabis, but do you know about its genetics? What some people might not know is that cannabis is composed of 20 chromosomes (nine autosomes and one sex chromosome apiece), and that the genetic expressions of each cannabis plant can display a variety of patterns, even if cells appear to be similar. However, different strains have different genotypes (their DNA) and phenotypes (the differing attributes of plants). So what exactly causes these differences in the genetic makeup of different cannabis strains?
While different cannabis plants can produce different effects and sensory responses, there are several factors that contribute to this, and genetics are a major component to the end result. Here’s what you need to know about cannabis genetics.
What Differentiates an Indica and a Sativa, and Their Genetic Makeup
For indica and sativa, what tends to differentiate these two pure strain types are not simply their effects after consumption or their relative THC content, but their growth structure. Sativa plants, which are believed to have originated from warm, humid countries near the equator such as Colombia, are known for their ability to grow as high as 10 feet, and also for their powerful scent and lengthy flowering periods (sometimes up to six months in length). Those wanting to become a cannabis distributor may know that sativa plants are known for producing various effects, such as:
- Cerebral highs
- Stimulating and uplifting moods
- Reducing aching and pains
- Relaxing muscles
- Increased creativity
- More energy
Indica plants are known for initially coming from mountainous regions of countries like Pakistan. They only need about two to three months for flowering, and can be distinguished based on their wider leaves (as opposed to the narrower ones found on sativa plants) and shorter height (only reaching up to six feet). They are also known for their frequent use for medicinal reasons, and being more compatible with indoor cultivation. Indica strains can lead to effects such as:
- Body highs
- Feelings of sedation
- Relaxing muscles
- Reducing effects of chronic pain
- Lessened anxiety
- Heightened appetite
There is also the genetics of hybrid strains to consider, as cultivating a mixture of indica and sativa buds—typically by mixing strains in a lab—can lead to an even more vast array of genetically different strains. Because the proportions of these buds can vary wildly, the exact genetic makeup can also vary.
Variables Affecting Strain Genetics, Explained for Cannabis Retail Training Students
Anyone hoping to work in an environment such as an AGCO cannabis dispensary should first understand how different factors impact the genetic makeup of cannabis plants. Such changes can be especially prevalent with indoor growth, and include phenotypic variables such as:
- Light source used
- Type of soil used
- Time spent harvesting
- Photoperiod time
- Light source’s proximity to the plant
- Angle of light source
Another of the most important aspects to look out for with cannabis is the environment in which it is grown. This is because the cannabis plant’s structure, scent, and even colour can differ based on its environment, such as if it’s being grown indoors or outdoors. For example, sativa plants are not recommended for indoor growing, as they need warm, humid temperatures to grow properly. A cannabis plant grown indoors can also lead to different chemotypes than outdoor plants. However, perhaps the biggest factor with regards to the nature of the highs produced is the proportion of terpenes, cannabinoids (eg. THC and CBD) and other compounds found in the plants. With each of these plants, their genetic makeup is the foundation on which their varying traits are built.
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