Cloning, otherwise known as propagation, is the process of rooting cannabis cuttings. Cloning cannabis is a method of marijuana reproduction that produces a genetically identical plant to the mother plant where the clone came from. The goal of cloning cannabis cuttings is to promote fast and robust root growth while preserving the plant’s genetics.
Other types of propagation include seed and cannabis tissue culture methods.
This article will show you the most popular ways to reproduce cannabis plants and help you get started growing cannabis starter plants for your garden in no time!
What is cannabis cloning and why should you clone your cannabis plants?
Cannabis growers use the term cloning to refer to the process of asexual reproduction that takes cuttings from a mother plant to create numerous young plants. This process is most often used when you have desirable traits that you would like to reproduce (i.e. favorable cannabinoid profile or yield that you want to reproduce).
Cloning cannabis is a quick and effective way to scale up the traits of your desired plant genetics so that you can more easily manage your garden.
In other agricultural sectors, this method of reproduction is called cutting propagation.
How to promote successful rooting when cloning cannabis
There are two steps to cloning cannabis cuttings. First, you want to prepare the cannabis plant by using a process called wounding. Next, you simply plant the cannabis cutting in your soil or grow media, using a process called sticking.
To wound your cannabis plant, remove a small amount of epidermal tissue from the plant’s stem. This way the undifferentiated cells can more readily grow into roots.
In a study of clonal propagation of cannabis conducted in growth chambers at Ryerson University, researchers found that wounded stems of three cannabis sativa varieties were 162% more likely to root than unwounded stems of the same varieties.
The technique involved scraping epidermal tissue from the bottom 5 centimeters of clone stems using a clean sharp scalpel.
Two of the three varieties tested in the study rooted 1.5 days faster than the unwounded stems of the same variety. The cuttings were not treated with a rooting hormone.
Setting up your environment to clone cannabis cuttings
Young plants are extremely sensitive to their environment. Light, humidity, and temperature must be managed closely to keep your plants healthy before moving them to the vegetative growth stage, where they become more resilient to their environment.
After you stick your cannabis cuttings, you must treat them with low light intensity and a mild but humid environment.
We recommend setting your light intensity to 100 μmol·m−2·s−1, your humidity to 100% and a temperature between 60° to 70°F (16° to 21°C).
Once the plant’s roots emerge in about 4 to 7 days, you can safely increase light levels to 150-200 μmol·m−2·s−1 and decrease your humidity to 80%.
Once your cuttings have developed roots, applying a light treatment with a high ratio of blue to red light can enhance root growth. Many studies have shown the benefits of blue light for root development in a range of crops.
We recommend a light treatment of 65% red light, 30% blue, and 5% white to create a fully developed rootstock before moving to the vegetative growth stage.
Alternative Methods to Cloning Cannabis
Seed propagation and tissue culture are the two other methods of marijuana propagation being used today.
In seed propagation, also called seed production, male and female plants are bred to produce seeds with the purpose of growing cannabis starter plants. Different from cloning, seed propagation is a type of sexual reproduction between male and female plants.
Tissue culture is a lesser-known method of cannabis propagation that has a similar goal of cutting propagation. Tissue cultures are taken from a small plant cutting and placed in a dense nutrient culture, which is often a type of agar. Using the tissue culture method, small pieces of plant tissue from your cannabis cuttings can eventually create hundreds of clones.
Seed Propagation vs. Cutting Propagation
Remember how cannabis cloning is a useful way to preserve cannabis genetics? Well, seed propagation is just about the opposite.
The purpose of seed breeding is to create new plant varieties by mixing the DNA of two different plant cultivars. These seeds can then be used in the seed propagation to grow more plants.
Sourcing the best seeds for your farm is considered by some growers to be the single most important factor in improving desirable plant traits such as yield, biochemical profiles, and terpene development. Another upside to working with seeds is that you don’t have to maintain stock plants for your cuttings or tissue. The downside to seed propagation is that the plants are not 100% identical to their parent plants, as they would be in cutting propagation or tissue culture.
For this reason, cloning is most often used as a secondary reproductive process to create starter plants once a plant breeder has developed a favorable cultivar where genetically identical traits are desired.
Tissue Culture vs. Cutting Propagation
Tissue culture is the latest scientific method becoming popularized in the cannabis industry today. This highly controlled method of propagation lets cultivators preserve living clones with minimal space.
Small amounts of plant tissue are taken from mother specimens to produce large quantities of identical clones. The plant tissue is placed in agar and stored until new hormones are introduced to trigger various stages of growth and development.
Unlike traditional cannabis cloning, tissue culture requires a highly sterile environment and specialized lab equipment, and in contrast, looks how most people think of clones, with test beakers and growing solutions stacked together in high densities.
Tissue culture allows growers to preserve their cannabis reproductive process in a highly effective way. The plant reproductive material can be staged for large commercial scale operations. Though the downside to using tissue is that it takes about twice as long to mature as cuttings.
As with any agricultural method, it’s important to test your new process first to determine what works best.
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