"Cuttings from mother plants have been the favored starting material in the cannabis industry for decades. However, it is our firm belief that F1 hybrid seeds will take that role in the coming years because of the many agro-economic advantages. This belief is rooted in many examples of row and vegetable crops that have made the same conversion, such as corn, sugar beet, tomato, and pepper," says Maikel de Bresser, COO of F1 SeedTech.
Diederik van den Broek and Maikel de Bresser of F1 SeedTech at GreenTech 2022 in Amsterdam
The Dutch breeding company, with breeding stations in Oregon and Israel, has an experienced staff of F1 seed professionals with over 50 years of experience in reputable F1 seed breeding companies like Bayer, BASF, and Vilmorin. De Bressel explains that F1 SeedTech is the first company to overcome the technical challenges of making F1 hybrid seeds of cannabis.
"Growers no longer have to worry about deteriorating mother plants while still getting the uniformity, stability, and traits that are essential for their production and crop management," says Harold Frazier, the Head of Breeding of F1 SeedTech. He emphasizes that the internal and external trials have shown the superior performance of these seeds.
What are F1 hybrid seeds?
De Bresser explains that F1 SeedTech has been successful in applying the general F1 breeding method to cannabis. "The vegetables that we're eating are coming from F1 hybrid seeds. Just five years ago, this method was not yet applied professionally to the cannabis crop. This is partly due to the legal environment surrounding the plant, a shortage of professional biologists and breeders, but also the fact that most cannabis businesses have been focusing their investments on the actual production rather than the development of genetics since the beginning of the legalization."
So how do you create an F1 hybrid? Frazier explains that it is the first generation after crossing two distinctly different inbred parental types. The inbreeding of cannabis plants is not always as straightforward as it is with corn and tomatoes. It requires deep knowledge of the cannabis plant. "Eventually, you create two inbred lines, which is done by undergoing several inbreeding steps to create highly homozygous/fixed inbred lines. After the inbred lines reach the required level of homozygosity as well as required genetically and phenotypically quality levels, the inbred lines will be used as the parental lines of the F1 hybrid varieties."
F1 hybrid seeds vs. cuttings
F1 SeedTech noticed that the collective cannabis industry focused on the production of flowers from clones as the method of choice and ignored the F1 breeding method. According to De Bresser, the trials have demonstrated that the F1 hybrid seeds result in strong and healthy plants with a high level of germination and require less labor in the greenhouse. "Growers will notice the increased yields that these varieties bring them. Moreover, each seed of a certain F1 hybrid cultivar is exactly the same. Previously, that was the major advantage of cuttings, as cannabis seeds used to be unreliable in production. However, now the F1 hybrid seeds mean that every plant is genetically the same within that variety. As a result, the grower will know exactly what size the plants will be, what the yield will be, and how to manage the growth of the plants."
With both cuttings and F1 hybrid seeds providing uniformity, what makes the seeds superior over cuttings? De Bresser explains that seeds are also stable. "Mother plants will deteriorate over time, whereas seeds can be produced infinitely. The parental line seeds may be stored for years in cool conditions. Moreover, seeds provide a lot of benefits when it comes to logistics. We can transport our seeds all over the world, as many countries don't consider cannabis seeds illegal. Sending cuttings, on the other hand, can get much more complicated because of the required licenses. Also, transportation itself is much easier. In just a small box, you can easily transport hundreds of thousands of seeds. Plants are living things that run the risk of getting damaged during their journey due to temperature differences, for example. That's also what provides customers of seeds with much more flexibility. You could purchase them now and wait until next year to actually start using them." In addition, Frazier mentions that the F1 hybrid breeding methodology is a proven approach for the stabilization of specific traits, including disease resistances, and making them accessible to growers all around the world.
F1 SeedTech is already noticing that there is definitely interest among growers. They confirmed in the first internal and external trials with experienced growers and universities that its F1 hybrid seeds bring the predicted advantages. Yet it's not an easy feat to get growers to change their production. "Growers don't like to take risks. Once they are used to a certain crop, it's a challenge to convince them to make a change. Therefore, we organize a lot of trials with potential customers. It's beneficial for growers to see for themselves how easy the product is and to experience the benefits." At the moment, their main interest is coming from North America. However, Europe is an interesting market too. "At the moment, the Portuguese and North Macedonian cannabis markets are big. We are also excited about the upcoming opportunities in the German market, where we have already started our first conversations with companies."
When it comes to the company's cannabis varieties, there is much more to look forward to. "We are at the beginning of a new era, and we will continue with the development of better varieties every day. F1 SeedTech's aim is to lead the movement toward sustainable and reliable starting material and wants to become the go-to company for growers to discover everything they need to know about F1 hybrid cannabis seeds."
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