POST CATEGORY: Growtech, Health & Science

Seeds vs. Clones

June 08, 2013 | TylerMarkwart

Diseases, mold, mildew and viral infections can all cripple a garden before harvest, costing thousands of dollars in lost medicine and wasted time.

seedsvclones2.jpgWhat's the best way to save time and money when growing your medicine? First, establish a well-thought out plan so you can manage any problems you face. Diseases, mold, mildew and viral infections can all cripple a garden before harvest, costing thousands of dollars in lost medicine and wasted time. Choosing a proper starting method helps reduce stress on the plants and the producer.  Let’s compare the difference between growing from seed and clones and get you growing the right way.   

The tap root holds it all down. Germinated seeds produce a tap root while clones produce what is known as a fiberous root system, when taken from a donor plant. A large tap root promotes strong vegetative growth, creating a stable plant. Larger plants have relatively larger xylem and phloem size, allowing for more nutrient and water transportation to the leaves and buds during flowering, which will increase the harvest weight.  

Plants grown from seed will slightly out-produce their clone when grown under identical conditions. More importantly, plants grown from seed have better pest and disease resistance compared with those grown from a clone.    

Driving past a wheat field, you’ll notice that the crop is uniform in height and other growth characteristics. Producers are able to accomplish this by planting homozygously bred seeds and not acres and acres of clones. Professional plant breeders are able to stabilize selected genetic traits and can breed a homozygous cultivar that is strong, productive and uniform at harvest.  

When you have seeds that produce multiple phenotypes, it’s difficult for producers to reap a uniform crop and maintain their garden without constant inputs. Award-winning strains such as Northern Lights from Sensi Seeds, White Rhino from Greenhouse Seeds and The Chronic from Serious Seeds are excellent for both commercial and home growers.  Because of their phenotype stability when growing from seed, producers can be assured that their crop will be uniform in disease and pest resistance and produce a consistent, quality product for patients.

Are your clones clean?  

Clones are an effective way for patients to maintain specific phenotype traits such as flavor, high and odor. Patients can also gain easier access to well-known established cultivars without the hassle of weeding out unwanted phenotypes or males. 

However, a downside to cloning is dirty clones. Bringing dirty clones into your garden is usually the No. 1 problem when it comes to pests and disease entering the grow room. Plants, like humans, can suffer viral attacks. Viruses such as the tomato mosaic virus can confuse new producers into thinking they are doing something wrong with their technique when they have just received a diseased clone.  
While plant viruses are not curable, they can be managed. Viruses are usually systemic, meaning they will also be present in clones taken from any infected donor plants. An infected plant is similar to an infected person. Without the aid of medicine and quality living conditions, the output of clones will be lowered because of the infection. 
seedsvclones3.jpgSourcing quality clones is critical for producers; taking clones from dirty clones can cause genetic expression loss in cultivars, which allows for infections and infestations to take hold because of a lowered immunity response.     
Cannabis is an annual plant, so its natural life cycle is to germinate-vegetate-flower/pollinate and then the females will produce seed all in a year.  Both male and female will then die off after fertilization, allowing for a new generation of seeds to become stratified. Like humans, plants age because their DNA begins to break down along with other proteins that control the systems’ response mechanisms. Problems with immune/defense pathway responses will start to become prevalent as the cloning process continues. Reduced vegetative growth and production in the size of pistils, calyxes and stamen will also decrease, resulting in a negative effect on production of terpenes, cannabinoids and other beneficial medicinal chemicals that the plant produces.  
While keeping a donor plant alive for years is possible, in-breeding within the cultivar’s gene pool or crossbreeding with nondominant strains such as Northern Lights will allow the grower to maintain a large stock of seed and keep those genetics producing strong crops.  
The right option

While cloning is convenient and can allow growers to keep desirable phenotype traits alive, it does have its downfalls when it comes to systemic viral infections and genetic expression loss from aging mothers.  Seeds will produce a stronger vegetative plant and in the end a stronger, more viable flowering plant because it produces a natural tap root as opposed to the fiberous root system that a clone creates during its rooting stage. The harvest from seed will be slightly larger than that of a clone, but clones will also finish faster than their seed counterparts because the clone is transplanted with established roots.  

For patients who are growing their own crop, clones can be beneficial in reducing the amount of initial input. For commercial growers and those who use small perpetual harvest systems, cloning could result in unwanted input costs for insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and other nonmedicinal chemicals.

Every garden is different, and even the same garden goes through changes.  Knowing how to properly select plants and breed seeds is something every grower should learn to do.   
Go to the library and you’ll find wonderful librarians and library associates who will help you find books on plant science and plant breading. Or, for an even more in-depth study, sign up for horticulture, biology, biochemistry and molecular plant science courses at a college or university.  
Washington State University is the state’s land grant university, and it offers Master Gardener programs across the state. The Pullman campus has courses that are more specific, including molecular plant science, organic agriculture systems and bioengineering. 
Educate yourself, investigate topics and most importantly, read and ask questions if you don’t understand the growing process. The more you know, the better you’ll grow. 

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