Choosing males for cannabis breeding: Expert tips for serious thought
When breeding cannabis the idea is to make seed. Different expressions from the genetics of the seed (genotype) will be observed in the different expressions of the plant(s) characteristics (phenotype). Different characteristics from both parent plants will be expressed. There is an old saying with breeders that goes something like this: "same breeds same". What that means is a fat leaf father and a fat leaf mother will breed fat leaf offspring. If we looked at the genotype of the parents we would most likely see similar genes for the fat leaf characteristic.
Well, if breeding for leaf shape was what we needed to know how to do, we would be done here and lesson over. But it is not. There are many more characteristics that cannabis breeders attempt to lockdown and breed into a lineage. By the way, leaf shape isn't much of a thing that breeders consider as much or at all. It helps identify possible characteristics but that's about all.
Besides things like potency, which can have several responsible genes, there are characteristics such as scent, flower time, mold resistance, flavor, calyx to leaf ration, specific terpenes, specific cannabinoid ratios, size, form, structure, and many others like YIELD. Right? So some of these can be observed in both the male and female plants. Things like shape, size, structure, node distance, resin production, and even flower times (to a certain degree). However, other desirable traits such as flavor and scent not so much. Also traits from one lineage can pass in bunches. For example: An inbred line Afghani Kush is observed to have a specific (desirable) scent that is associated with the longer flowering time phenotypes (desirable for higher yields).If so, zeroing in on the desired scent will likely also be bringing the longer flowering characteristics. Easy to smell some early buds to find the female parental phenotypes to breed with but what if you didn't have o0r didn't want to use a female for breeding these characteristics? What if you only had males or wanted specifically to use a male for breeding these characteristics? (there are reasons: Expert/advanced level breeding) What if?
Remember, like breeds like and if you've spent time with your cultivars you will notice similarities in genotype/phenotype expressions in your plants. some will be obvious. Others not so much. Cannabis is bred for female expressions, don't kid yourself it's about the buds man. So again, it's easy to see fat, frosty, giant buds. It's easy to smell that lemon scent or see colas stacked like arms. All on the female. How do you tell on a male? That's where it pays to get creative. The most common "trick" is to rub the stem of the male plant and check for scent. This is a very good way to differentiate between male phenotypes to a degree. When a grower wants to find a desired scent or aroma from a female plant, they usually wait to see/smell early buds not rub the stem. Yes doing so, preflower will present indicators or flower scent but only to a point. Male plants will sometimes have very frosty/resinous flower clusters, another good indicator of potency and flavor/scent if you burst the trichomes on the male flowers for scent. This brings us to consider another way to discern and select a male for breeding unobserved characteristics in a male parent plant.
"The nibble": Just like it sounds: Remove a large sun/fan/water leaf.; Nibble the end of the petiole while lightly sucking up the juice. Notice the taste and flavor. Do this with both male and female plants. You will notice distinct differences in flavor, taste, acridity, and other indescribable palatable characteristics. Many of these will go hand in hand with flower scent, taste and flavor. You cant do that rubbing a stem. There is no substitute for experience and over time, growers with years of nibbling thousands of plants from hundreds of lineages will appear to have a special sense for breeding and selecting the best/right males to make seed. This grower has seen this in real time and will always use this tool in all future breeding projects. This technique is for more than just breeding. It will help any grower get closer to the plant and have a fuller deeper understanding of their plants. Nobody can lay claim to this technique but first I heard of it was from Professor Potgrower of Big Island Genetics.