As a commercial grower, I have always eagerly anticipated the beginning of Spring and the start of another growing cycle. From a small collection of seed packets, the most remarkable garden can be produced. It is particularly special here in New England, where we have limited frost-free dates and often inconsistent weather patterns—outdoors that is. It is truly magical to take a dormant seed and with some water and heat encourage it to sprout and achieve its full potential.
There are not many businesses where you can take a single item—in this case a seed—and germinate it and through propagation achieve huge financial success. This is especially true in the cannabis industry. A single seed from controlled or random pollination can result in a world-famous genetic. At $10/seed, a female plant can be very profitable. There is always room for genetic improvement, and we are far from having the perfect cannabis plant. Breeders can accelerate this process through careful selection, and Mother Nature will continue with natural selection in the natural world. Someday we may have cannabis with no powdery mildew, shorter flowering times, larger yields, the list goes on. Right now, we are far away from the perfect plant. The potential of a seed is so tremendous it is worth learning more about them.
Seeds are produced as a survival mechanism. It is important to remember that this is really the purpose of a plant: to reproduce and improve overall survivability through the natural selection process. Every plant species has adapted in such a way as to continue its survival through this process. Most cannabis plants are dioecious, which means there are male plants and female plants. Seeds are the product of sexual reproduction, unlike cloning, which copies the parent plant. There are exceptions to this rule; at times, female plants produce male flowers as a result of stresses.
Cannabis seeds can be stored for many years. Some people claim to have stored seed for 10 years or more. Freezing seeds is possible but not recommended. One thing is for sure: the fresher, the better. A seed is much like an animal in hibernation; once conditions are favorable, germination initiates. Heat is the number one influential factor. For the average grower, seed storage is best at 35 degrees F, very dry and dark. Jars and sealed bags stored in a refrigerator are suitable.
What do we look for when choosing seeds? Foremost would be to choose the freshest seeds. Short-term storage is fine, but the fresher the better. Although there is tremendous variation in cannabis seed, the outward appearance of a seed does not indicate future performance. Larger seeds do not indicate a larger and healthier plant. It could be possible to separate a mixed bag of seed based on appearance, but no genetic selection could be based solely on appearance. If you have a single strain selection of seeds, it makes sense that smaller seeds relative to the group can indicate a less mature seed and potential germination problems.
When we watch a seed germinate, what are we actually looking at? When seed is sown, it absorbs moisture and then cracks open. The seed contains enough stored energy to initiate growth until the true leaves emerge and begin photosynthesis. When a seed cracks, the first to emerge is the tap root. This roots buries itself into the media and starts to absorb nutrients and water. This root also anchors the seedling. Opposite this root, the cotyledons unfurl and reach upward. Cotyledons are storage tissues and supply the seedling with enough energy to produce the first true sets of leaves. With the true leaves, the seedling has the ability to develop into its full potential through photosynthesis.
One last comment about cannabis seeds. Did you know that hemp seeds, which are commercially available, are a perfect food for humans? Cleaned hemp seeds, commonly known as hemp hearts, contain 30% fat, are rich in protein, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and many essential nutrients. They are a “super food” that should be enjoyed by all. And they taste good!