Today’s increasingly competitive cannabis marketplace demands product consistency and quality, making cloning a preferred choice of growers for its ability to reproduce identical high-quality plant strains. With a single female plant able to reproduce as many as 50 clones per week, it’s not much of a surprise this asexual growing process has become the dominant method of cultivation in the industry.
Cultivating from clones is not without its critics, however, as some say the practice can cause a strain to lose its potency over time. To understand more about the cloning process and learn the best methods for getting it right, let’s take a closer look.
Why Do Some Cannabis Quality Assurance Professionals Use Cloning?
When a plant has been identified by an expert as a stand-out in terms of its potency and yield potential, cloning is an ideal way for growers to be able to replicate the specimen. With each high-quality female plant capable of producing dozens of clones each week, the process allows growers to create bountiful high-quality harvests over and over again, with additional benefits including:
- Faster grow times
- Consistency of quality
A cloned plant takes on the cellular age of its mother plant, allowing it to reach harvest that much quicker than a plant grown from seed. With faster grow times, the overall costs associated with providing energy, feeding, and maintenance to the crop are reduced. Of added advantage to those in cannabis quality assurance, the quality of the strain can be optimized simply by cutting and cloning the leaves of the mother plant deemed to be of the highest quality.
What Are Some Common Cloning Methods?
As graduates of cannabis quality assurance courses know, the cloning process begins by choosing the right plant. Cannabis clones are grown from cuttings taken from a healthy female plant, with this “mother” plant either grown from seed or a clone itself. The ideal mother plant must be under two months of age for the best chance of success, as some studies associate genetic mutations with compromised genetic elements following the flowering cycle found in older plants.
Methods of rooting clones include:
- Growing from Rockwool – where seeds are geminated via Rockwool cubes, allowing for high retention of air and water.
- Growing from soil – where the stalks are placed in nutrient-balanced soil, with water added along the way.
- Growing from water – where the stalks of the plant are cut and left in water infused with plant food.
Some producers may also choose to clone for sex, looking to grow the preferred flowering-female plant only.
What Are the Risks of Cloning?
Critics of cultivating from clones point to clonal degradation. This is the idea that, after generations of the practice, clones begin to shift from the mother’s original gene pattern to produce inferior plants. Doing this would mean they are less potent in quality, yield less, and are more vulnerable to invasion from pests, fungi, and other pathogens. The idea of clonal degradation is a subject of heated debate in the industry, with some dismissing the phenomenon as little more than myth.
However, research has shown that genetic mutations can occur in clone populations, and cuttings can pass those mutations on. For example, chromosomal disorders have been identified that cause plants to no longer experience normal cell division, resulting in slowed growth.
How to Prevent Clonal Decay
As environmental stressors have been associated with clonal decay, growers are advised to prevent such degradation with the right level of care and maintenance. Specific tips for achieving optimal clone growth include:
- Taking cuts from robust, young mother plants only
- Using sterile equipment throughout the process
- Diligently monitoring the conditions of the grow environment
When done correctly, cloning is an undisputed method for growers to quickly reproduce top performing crops. With this in mind, it’s in their interest to seek the assistance of quality assurance experts to continually vet the process in order to maximize profits.
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