The practice of pollinating a male and female cannabis plant to produce a new hybrid strain, or to strengthen certain genetic traits of a strain. Male cannabis plants have pollen sacs that will release pollen in the air once mature and then pollinate a female. The female plant will then produce seeds, which will be a new strain that carries the genetics of both male and female parents.
How are cannabis plants bred?
Cannabis plants can be male or female—males produce pollen and females produce seeds and buds. When a male reaches maturity it will release pollen from its pollen sacs, which will travel through the air and land on a female, pollinating it.
The female cannabis plant will then grow to maturity, producing seeds and buds. The resulting seeds will contain the genetics of both the male and female parents.
This is how new cannabis strains are created, by pollinating a female cannabis plant of one strain with the pollen of a male of another strain. Commercial cannabis breeders will create new strains by placing a male and several female cannabis plants in a breeding chamber, which is an enclosed structure that will allow for pollination without pollen getting outside of the chamber and tainting other crops.
For example, to create the strain Super Lemon Haze, a cannabis breeder at one point took a male Super Silver Haze and a female Lemon Skunk—or vice versa—put them in a breeding chamber, and allowed them to pollinate. The resulting seeds produced by the female became Super Lemon Haze.
Phenotypes and pheno-hunting
Once pollinated, a good-sized female cannabis plant will produce hundreds of seeds when mature. All of these seeds are phenotypes of the new hybrid strain—phenotypes are essentially siblings, males and females that are all different and have a unique combination of genetic traits inherited from the mother and father plants.
A breeder will then grow several phenotypes to maturity and pick the most desirable one—this process is called pheno-hunting, because they are looking for the best phenotype of the new hybrid strain.
Once the best phenotype is chosen, that plant will be cloned and mass produced, becoming a new strain.