Bridging the Gap Between Cannabis Breeding and Genetics


The widespread legalization of cannabis and cannabis breeding has caused an explosion of varying tastes. Landrace cannabis has forcefully evolved from singular terpene profiles into the most diverse selection of smells and flavors of any plant in the world. This change has been brought about by old-time breeders and new-school tinkerers. There was a time not long ago that breeder’s selection processes took many years and thousands of plants to improve quality, smell, and taste. As cannabis has flourished in the modern age, science has given us the tools to a more direct path for improving cannabis and breeding. Currently, this tool is referred to as targeted sequencing or next-generation targeted sequencing.

What Exactly is Targeted Sequencing?

Targeted sequencing is a tool that allows for genetic changes or mutations to be understood. To fully utilize targeted sequencing, the genetics of cannabis need to be known. The more genes researchers find, the more information of what those genes control can be realized. This will unlock cannabis secrets and create unimaginable plants. Understanding all the genes in the plant and mapping them is ongoing. Genes that control yield and stress in other plants are widely known. However, genes controlling specific terpenes are partially known. Other genes that control size, shape, color, along with many others, are not. This area of science and cannabis breeding is developing rapidly.

The goal of targeted sequencing is to understand the entire genome and build a genetic library of the plant. Fragments or books of the genome can then be compared to known fragments from other plants. The comparison helps identify specific genes and what they are used for. Fragments that don’t match other known fragments are investigated further. This information helps in building a map of all the genes that make up the plant. Additionally, gene maps can be compared to landrace cannabis plants, then parental lines of hybrids can be discovered. We can then see how cannabis has changed or been domesticated from its original form.

Breeders can use this information to back cross and create original landrace cultivars.

Targeted Sequencing Advantages Over Traditional Cannabis Breeding

Traditional cannabis breeding has come a long way from its origins. Thousands of years ago our ancestors were breeding landrace strains for their needs such as fiber, seed, and perhaps smell. As we have evolved, we have evolved cannabis to suit our modern needs like the taste, smell, and mind-altering effects. Using traditional cannabis breeding has brought us some amazing strains like DJ Shorts Blueberry. However, to develop that strain took many years, thousands of plants, and a lot of instinct.

What if we could create the newest strains but cut that process in half? That is one of the advantages of targeted sequencing. Using the technology allows us to view what is going on in the plant at a genetic level. Breeders can then choose the plants with the genes they desire and breed them. Breeders have a quicker outcome in creating plants for different environments and increase yields.

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Targeted sequencing provides the identification of rare genes that may pop up. This allows for a breeder to discover new traits to pass on quicker. The results of the analysis are easy to interpret so you don’t need to have a vast scientific understanding. Targeted sequencing provides identification of inherited mutations making the sifting process of breeding easier. It is a cost-effective technology that any breeder can utilize on their site. While the technology has a lot to offer, traditional breeding practices are still needed. For example, phenotype selection is still needed along with other selection processes. If we combine this technology with traditional breeding, we can take a lot of the guesswork out of cannabis breeding. This gives more tools for cannabis breeders to use and improve the plant for all users.

As cannabis becomes more mainstream globally, many tools are being introduced to the industry. The newest tool is targeted sequencing. It is a cost-effective approach to understanding the genes and outcomes of breeding programs. The more breeders using targeted sequencing allows for more researchers to study more genes. This helps unlock more of the potential for cannabis plants and the industry. It may allow for more artisanal breeders to better understand their plants and improve their craft. Targeted sequencing opens the doors for more breeders to make specific plants and push the boundaries of cannabis.

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