Cannabis Science

27 August 2019

What is a Cannabis Hybrid?

Are you the kind of person who enjoys the energizing and creative buzz of a delicious sativa strain, but also favours the relaxing body effects offered up by an easy-going indica? If so, it’s more than likely that you will have already sampled a hybrid strain. 

But what, exactly, is a hybrid marijuana strain, how do we create them, and why do we have so many different cannabis types and new strains of cannabis to choose from?

Why are Cannabis Hybrids Created?

A hybrid cannabis plant is the consequence of cross-pollinating two different types of plant and subsequently growing the seed that the blend produces to create an entirely new strain of cannabis. The plant that grows from that seed is then considered to be a hybrid strain. Like other marijuana plants, cannabis can exist either as a pure breed (see our selection of regular cannabis seeds) or as a hybrid mix of strains.  

Hybrid cannabis strains are our human-made efforts to customise plants with specific types of characteristics that are usually found in ruderalis, sativa, and indica strains. But why do we do this?

Thanks to the commercialization of the cannabis industry, an increasing number of hybrid strains continue to emerge as breeders mix and remix both pure strains and already existing hybrids. When cannabis is bred to create hybrid strains, all kinds of new hybrid cannabis strains can be generated, each of them producing their own unique traits and effects. 

Typically, most strains are bred to contain a mix of sativa and indica genetics and, depending on their lineage, will contain characteristics from both strains. Successful indica/sativa hybrid strains will inherit the best qualities of both parent plants.

For example, the deliciously sweet Super Lemon Haze is a cross between the sativa-dominant Super Silver Haze and the Indica favourite Lemon Skunk. This cross-breeding of the Super Silver Haze marijuana strain and Lemon Skunk resulted in a sativa-dominant hybrid that took some of the best characteristics from both indica and sativa strains.

Today, these types of hybrid marijuana strains offer new and exciting flavours, terpene variables and different or improved traits that are particularly appealing for both recreational and medical marijuana consumers alike. This has resulted in the creation of a seemingly endless number of marijuana strain types for you, the consumer, to choose from with a wide range of psychoactive effects and medicinal benefits present in each strain.

What are the Main Types of Cannabis Hybrid?

Typically, there are four types of hybrid strains:

  • Sativa plus sativa: Two different sativa varieties that have been bred together
  • Indica plus indica: Two different indica varieties that have been bred together
  • Sativa plus indica: A hybrid with sativa-dominant characteristics but also has traits of both plants
  • Indica plus sativa: A hybrid with indica-dominant characteristics but also has traits of both plants

The hybrid marijuana strains that we see now are the result of a lengthy breeding and selection process that is conducted by expert breeders from across the cannabis industry. These breeders (or strain-hunters as they are known) are always looking to develop and improve their techniques to create new and exciting cannabis strains.

Flavours, effects, duration, adaptability to the environment and the life cycle are just some of the vital elements that breeders are looking to improve upon when they create a new type of hybrid strain be it sativa-dominant hybrids or indica-dominant hybrids.

Of course, creating a stable genetic line to ensure that all offspring will exhibit these particular traits is a challenging and lengthy process. Thankfully, with years of breeding experience, the experts in the industry (with a lot of selection work), have been able to obtain strains whose offspring exhibit the most desirable traits in a high proportion and as such, can create a line of stable genetics. 

Why are Cannabis Hybrids Popular?

While the proliferation of hybrid cannabis seems to have occurred only in recent years, selective breeding of cannabis seeds dates back as far as the 1970s.

Breeders and hobbyists around the world began cross-pollinating one strain with another to try and improve the levels of THC ratio, yield, or terpene profile to enhance potency, value, and flavour. Throughout the years, those techniques and skills practised by the world’s most talented breeders have been honed and crafted to give cannabis consumers more choice than ever before.

Thanks to increased legality and a dramatic cultural shift in how cannabis is viewed by society, particularly in regards to medical cannabis, cannabis popularity continues to rise with the plant now receiving more positive media exposure than ever before as the rich and famous begin to both endorse, and invest in the burgeoning marijuana market.

With an industry that is expected to top $100 billion by 2025, it is little wonder that breeders are increasingly looking to develop the next big strain types in this rapidly growing cannabis industry.

What are F1 Cannabis Hybrids, and how are They Created?

To get a strong ‘stable’ hybrid strain, breeders combine the strongest specimens in their collections to create what is known as an F1 hybrid (Filial 1), or in layman’s terms, a ‘first child’ plant.

F1 hybrids contain the dominant genes from both marijuana plants and also exhibit some of the same qualities as their parent plants that helps to create a unique combination. These combinations don’t occur naturally, though. This allows seed brands to maintain their versions of different strains for their own commercial purposes.

Plants grown from F1 hybrids tend to have better strength and survival rates than specimens of a single genetic line. These hybrids are characterized by the visible qualities their genes produce and their phenotype. Typically they can either be pungent or subtle, stocky or gangly, bushy or with long branches and more isolated buds.

Modern lab testing has provided us with more specifics on the genetics of each strain (its genotype) and allowed for even more successful cross-breeding.

Indeed, cannabis breeding has become something of an art form in recent years. The mixing of the three main types of cannabis: Sativa, indica, and ruderalis has become so standardized that it’s increasingly difficult to make the distinction between each category. Instead, the pure and original or regular strains are increasingly hard to find in the general recreational market, and most modern strains are cultivated varieties (cultivars), expertly bred through the years to maximize their genetic potential.

What is the Difference Between Indica and Sativa Cannabis Plants?

Until recently, cannabis marketability has suffered for a variety of reasons but none more so than the general misunderstanding and lack of knowledge on the plant’s effects on its consumers. For most, their understanding of the effects is limited merely to a basic understanding of the differences between indicas and sativa plants (sativa for a mood high, indica for a body relaxer).

However, as any experienced cannabis consumers will tell you, these two categories are far too narrow to offer much in the way of a real explanation of the full effects of the strain and are generally quite subjective depending on the individual.  For example, the effects of indica strains are typically advertised as being relaxing and sedating, but for many consumers, that is simply not the case as the effects of one strain on one user can vary on another user. 

Even armed with this basic sativa/indica knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily help consumers to be able to distinguish what the strain’s effects will be for them.

As such, much more attention is now being focussed on cannabis terpenes, flavonoids and the specific effects of cannabinoids on our ECS (Endocannabinoid System). Clearly, our understanding of cannabis and its effects needs to extend much further than merely a rudimentary and outdated sativa/Indica measuring stick.

The reality is that the psychoactive effects of any cannabis strain have much more to do with the plant’s cannabinoids and terpene profile rather than the plant’s indica or sativa dominance.

What is the Future for Cannabis Hybrids?

As cannabis begins to shake off the shackles of illegality, stigma, and misinformation, an increasing level of research, investment, and scientific analysis on this wonderful plant are now taking place. With more and more countries considering a path towards full cannabis legislation and legality, the possibility to further study the full effects of cannabis strains and their effects is now expected in the coming months and years.

Slowly but surely, our collective understanding of what cannabis can do, how it can be used and which cannabis types suit our individual needs is beginning to rise and rise.

With the emergence of a growing cannabis market, both for medicinal and recreational uses, an increasing number of cannabis researchers are now leading the call for more attention to the specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles of different indica and sativa strains.

Among the leading voices is renowned Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam whose research team first isolated CBD and THC in the lab in the 1960s and later confirmed the existence of the human endocannabinoid system in the human body in the ’90s.

Mechoulam has suggested that today’s increasingly accurate cannabinoid and terpene profiling will be the way towards truly personalized medical cannabis-based medicine: matching the genetics of the plant to the genetics of the person, to help produce a strain with a tailored cannabinoid profile for their specific condition.

Given that we now have thousands of cannabis strains available, it is becoming increasingly important that cannabis experts and research scientists forage a clear path to more in-depth cannabis knowledge and better scientific understanding in the near future. At Marijuana Grow Shop, we are always looking to the future, in a bid to understand and share the knowledge we have obtained through scientific analysis of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. 

While the choice on offer for cannabis consumers has never been greater, it seems particularly vital that more analysis of strains and their effects is conducted in order to provide each consumer with a cannabis strain best suited for their own needs.

With greater variety comes greater demand and with it, it is surely inevitable that these beautiful plants’ full benefits and wide-ranging effects will be revealed as scientific research increases.

If you want to learn more about hybrid strains, please visit our Marijuana Grow Shop to discover a world of regular, feminized and auto-flowering seeds.

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