As growers like Best Cali Hemp prepare for their next season, the discussion of whether to clone or to begin everything from seed is inevitable. Here at Best Cali Hemp, we’ve taken a hybrid approach of growing straight seedlings and cloning, having started the process several months ago. While cloning is optimal, there are factors that must be considered.
One must determine the scale required to meet the demand. How many plants will be needed for the acreage being cultivated and whether the necessary space is available to accommodate the cloning process as opposed to simply allowing a plant to grow before going in the ground. Regardless of the decision, the initial step required for either process is to pop seeds. This involves placing numerous seeds in to trays of rock wool material where, in about three days, they grow into seedlings.
The seedlings are transplanted into amended soil and placed in the Sea of Green grow machines, where light can be regulated. Once the plants are about 12 inches, they are strong enough to withstand a first cutting. Cloning from smaller plants tend to yield plants that are less likely to thrive or will be inconsistent. Once the plant reaches this point, we top it, which first forces the plant to grow out rather than up and second, grows two heads.
This first clipping or clone from a plant is taken for sexing the plant. We take the cutting, trim the leaves and score the stem, dip it in rooting gel and place it in the machine. Each clone is labeled to correlate the number from the cloning field with the plant from which it’s cut. The stem is sprayed constantly with nutrient fortified water, and usually grows roots within four days. Once roots begin to show, the clone is transplanted, placed in the Sea of Green and forced into flower using a 12/12 light cycle (12 hours of light and 12 hours darkness) so the sex can be determined. This is called “sexing.” The nodes of the plant are checked a couple times each day as we’re looking for the formation of bracts in the female which will produce hair-like stigma or small sacs,
which are indicators of male plants. If the later forms, these plants are pulled to ensure only females continue growing. Once a plant is determined to be female, she is kept and grows into a Mother from which numerous additional clones will be taken. These clones will be an exact genetic copy of the Mother.
Cloning is important because even though we use feminized seeds, it is entirely possible a male could slip into the mix. If a male goes unnoticed and is allowed to mature, the resulting pollination can have ruinous effects rendering a crop grown for CBD and flower, useless. This would be a costly mistake, one that should be avoided. Interestingly, in Humboldt County, California, which is part of the Emerald Triangle where marijuana is extensively grown, hemp production is forbidden by county ordinance in order to protect marijuana cultivation from potential cross pollination from hemp to marijuana. While the same principle applies the other direction, pollination within ones own crop can lead to devastating results as stated above.
While cloning is sometimes viewed as an unnecessary extra step, we see it as a way to eliminate one of many variables that can arise. Hemp cultivation on a commercial scale is a costly endeavor. Every step that can be proactively taken to ensure success is a worthy investment of time in the long term success of the crop.