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Cannabis tissue culture: why?

What’s up with all these people growing plants in boxes? You’ve seen them on Instagram, tagged #biotech and looking smug. But what do plants in boxes have to do with growing cannabis flower?

The answer is: not much, at least not directly. The promise of cannabis tissue culture lies on the other side of production, the back end if you will. This is because tissue culture is the best tool that a cannabis cultivator has to protect their most valuable assets: their strains. As the cannabis industry matures, competition between cultivators grows increasingly fierce. In this arms race of dankness, those with the best genetics win out. 

In order to breed the next hot strain, a breeder needs a large stable of plants with good phenos, aka phenotypes aka beneficial traits. One strain might have high quantities of a rare terpenoid. Another might produce striking purple buds. If each has sub-par cannabinoid content they aren’t really marketable. But, the breeder can cross them to high-producing strains, combining the best traits of each to produce a Cannabis Cup winner.

This is where tissue culture comes into the picture. 

Tissue culture provides safe, secure, and space-efficient storage of plant genetics. It’s best use is for plants that you want to hold on to, but don’t have the space and/or resources to keep traditionally. Even if you don’t have a robust breeding program, you probably have strains that you’re attached to. 

Keeping plants in tissue culture is a secure and space-efficient way of storing strains. They only take up a few inches of space, don’t need to be watered or fertilized, and can be illuminated by cheap LEDs. 

Tissue culture plants also act as a strain backup system. Losing a harvest to spider mites is expensive, but losing your favorite strain is game over. With backups in tissue-culture, you can rest easy knowing that your genetics are safe.

So that’s what tissue culture is all about. It’s an insurance system for your cannabis plants. So, why are tissue-culture posters on insta so smug? Because it’s hard to pull off. You need fancy equipment and serious technical know-how. A lot can go wrong and troubleshooting can seem futile. So, when you see someone post their tiny plant-in-a-box, give them a like. They probably deserve it.

Source: Lorenzo Katin-Grazzini, PhD,

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