Why Lucky 13 Seed Company Doesn't Sell Feminized Seeds
A question I get asked a lot is, "Professor Sprout, why don't you offer feminized seeds?" As you can see in the photo below, feminized seeds simply do not hold a candle to regular, non-genetically modified, organically produced cannabis seed. You're knee jerk reaction to this photo might be "Hey, the bigger healthier plant is in a larger container with more soil, I call bullshit!"
Both plants were originally started in the same sized 1 gallon containers in the exact same soil mix, but the non-feminized plant on the right rapidly outgrew it's pot, becoming severely root-bound. At this point it demanded to be transplanted into a larger container with fresh soil as it began to become nutrient deficient. The plant one the left had still not fully rooted into it's 1 gallon container when this photo was taken. As you can clearly see, regular, non-feminized seeds bred naturally with two proper sets of chromosomes grow much more vigorously. Ultimately, regular seeds will yield more high quality bud, in less time, than their feminized versions. There are many more reasons to abandon feminized seeds altogether, but first, let me explain what a feminized cannabis seed actually is and how it is created.
Cannabis Comes in Two Sexes
Cannabis is a dioecious species, meaning it will produce separate male and female plants. The male produces the pollen, the female receives the pollen and produces seeds. The female also produces the cannabis bud which contains the medicinal resins we are looking for. Depending on certain factors, you will usually get about 65-75% female plants and 25-35% male plants. This does come down largely to luck of the draw, however certain factors such as nitrogen levels in the soil, germination temperature, and other environmental concerns can shift ratios of females to males in your favour. In fact, placing decomposing banana peels around your plants as they germinate and during the transition to bloom can dramatically increase the number of female plants in a given cannabis crop due to the gas ethylene and it's effect on cannabis sex.
Genetic Modification Produces Feminized Seeds
Feminization of cannabis seed is a process whereby a chemical (usually Silver Thiosulphate) is sprayed on the female plant during the the transition from vegetative growth to bloom. This chemical blocks the female hormones and forces the plant into survival mode. To ensure reproduction and continuation of the species, the plant becomes hermaphroditic and thus begins to produces male pollen alongside the female stigmas.
Because the plant is genetically female, it won't contain the male chromosome, and thus when the pollen taken from a chemically altered female plant is dusted onto another budding female cannabis plant (or itself), the result will be seeds that are now 100% female, and 100% sterile - they will never be able to reproduce (unless re-feminized, which only further degrades the line) since the male chromosome is now absent from the genetic code.
Why Would You Want Only Females?
The feminization practice became popular with cannabis growers since only the female plants produce the buds. Males produce pollen and have no THC, CDB, or other cannabinoids in any appreciable quantity. So when growing cannabis from seed to produce the largest yield and best quality bud, males are identified and discarded as they are useless to a grower who doesn't want to make seeds. If a male plant is not removed from the growing area before it releases pollen, flowering female plants will receive the pollen and produce seeds. Seeded buds produce far less resin and cannabinoids, and are considered very poor quality. Nobody wants seeded bud. It adds extra weight (therefore costs more) is less potent, less aromatic, and you have to go to the trouble of carefully sifting out the seeds from your ground up buds. If you've ever smoked a joint with a seed in it you'll know why - they have a tendency to explode.
The risk of seeded bud causes significant anxiety in growers Many are afraid an errant male plant will somehow get missed and accidentally pollenate the entire crop. This fear is largely a holdover from the days of guerrilla growing where you'd plant a hidden crop out in the bush, far from prying eyes, and only visit it once every couple weeks or so to check on it But in today's far more cannabis friendly world (at least in the more sane parts of the planet) where many people are growing legally in their back yard or in tents in their home, there's really nothing to worry about; male plants are very easy to identify, as long as you can keep an eye on your plants and check on them at least once every few days. Males begin flowering around a week before the females, and usually two weeks before the females are at risk for successful pollination. You can easily find the males and remove them long before they have had a chance to impregnate your females. To make things really easy for you I've even written an article to teach you how to identify male and female cannabis plants and completley eliminate the possibility of accidental pollination.
One other reason cannabis breeders take advantage of feminization is in order to keep people from making their own seeds. By eliminating the male from the equation, it is impossible for the end customer to then make their own batch of seeds unless they decide to re-feminize the seeds again, and as already stated, this is not a recommended practice. This leads to what is called 'depression' in the genetic line (sickly, weak, hermaphodite prone offspring) due to excessive inbreeding.
Essentially feminization ensures that all the breeder's hard work is protected. Since the customer has no male plant they can't simply make a batch of new seeds, rename it, and then turn around and sell it as their own; cutting the original breeder out of the equation. They would have to obtain a male from another strain, which would create an entirely different set of genetic combinations that would be unlike the original.
The Downside to Feminization
As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, feminization does indeed have it's drawbacks. In my experience, feminized seeds exhibit exponentially slower growth when compared to organic, non-feminized, non-genetically modified seeds. Germination rates are often much lower, growth can be stunted or mutated, and many feminized seeds have a low tolerance to stress and will be prone to becoming hermaphroditic if environmental conditions are less than ideal.
The Purple Vegas plants shown above (a hybrid of Las Vegas Purple Kush and Hindu Kush) were started at the exact same time, grown side by side in identical soil and environmental conditions with the exact same care and attention. As you can see, the feminized plant is dwarfed by it's healthier, far more vigorous organic counterpart. And remember, the larger plant needed to be transplanted as it outgrew it's container, while the smaller plant still had plenty of fresh soil to grow into.
One last issue with feminization is the resultant genetic bottlenecking. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is something that ultimately could be disastrous to cannabis' genetic diversity. By eliminating the male chromosome from the equation you end up with a population of completely sterile female plants. With no male plants to introduce fresh genetic material into the population, mutations and defects will occur and then become exacerbated over multiple generations. This becomes especially true when a particular plant is feminized and then re-feminized over and over again; something that has become common place in many cannabis breeding circles. The end result is the chromosomes begin to degrade rapidly which causes the health and vigour of that particular breeding line to decline with every successive generation; much like taking a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy.
Choose Lucky 13 Organic Seeds
With the exception of the feminized seeds produced for this experiment, Lucky 13 Seed Company produces only 100% organic, non-genetically modified, non-feminized cannabis seed of the highest quality. This results in much healthier plants that germinate better, grow faster, yield bigger, and are far more resistant to pests and disease. Keep it natural folks.