Two things influence the structural formation of any given cannabis plant: genetics and environment.
The genotype is the plant's genetic makeup, essentially a blueprint for growth, allowing for a spectrum of possible physical characteristics, but it is up to the environment to induce these characteristics. The phenotype is the physical expression of a genotype, everything from color, smell, shape, and resin production are affected by the environment.
Pheno-hunting is the search, or hunt, for that perfect phenotype of any strain when starting plants from seed. When searching for the prefect phenotype, or pheno, you are essentially looking for the best plant of a certain strain whose physical characteristics both satisfy the checklist of qualities you desire, while also having qualities that allow the plant to thrive in the environment you can provide.
The phenotype of an organism depends on which genes are dominant and on the interaction between genes and environment. A master gardener, who wishes to remain nameless, recently described it in this way:
"The best way to think of it is like human kids. They have the same parents, they are similar, but everyone is unique and different in their own special way, and the so called ‘perfect pheno’ is solely based on personal preference.”
The best phenotype is simply the one that works best in your garden. The setup of a garden influences pheno’s dramatically, without a controlled environment you won’t be able to see the complete result of any phenotype. The same master gardener, who manages several commercial grows, claims, “Some pheno’s at one grow can be very different from the same pheno, in a very similar grow across town.”
It's important to note that pheno-hunting can be accompanied by a variety of complications. By remaining diligent, clean and organized throughout the grow cycle, you can help to avoid any pitfalls that are prone to arise during testing, cloning, sexing and in any of the steps it takes to grow a healthy plant.
The key to a successful pheno-hunt: Organization
There are many different ways to germinate a seed and many growers have their own opinions on how to germinate a seed or what medium to use, that is all based on personal preference. We used just a rapid rooter tray which helps keep things organized and efficient.
BONUS: Another step you can take to maintain organization in addition to the labelling is the graph we've provided, which will help you track the progress each week. The weekly "check-up" graph.
Seed health will help determine the health of the plant for the duration of its life. Make sure that when you buy seeds, you find some that are dark in color and are hard enough that if you squeeze them firmly with a pair of gloves, they don't break. If they do break easily, they're not good seeds.
When starting your seeds it is important that you handle the seeds delicately. Do your best to keep your seeds clean and disinfected. Handle your seeds as little as possible and avoid getting any of your oils from your fingers on the seeds or anything that can end up contaminating them. Doing your research to find seeds from a reputable company as well as doing a 'background check' on the strain will definitely help.
Early Growth and Sexing
After you transfer from rooters to potters your plants will be time to move your plants into the vegetative cycle. It is important to label every plant with its strain and pheno number, to maintain efficiency and organization.
After this it is time for the plant to grow. All of the gardeners recommended using TGA gardening soil along with TGA super soil for the duration of the plants life saying, “It makes gardening simple and easy. How can you go wrong? You just water.”
During early growth it is important to remain diligent, clean, and organized. You are looking for many things like disease, pests, and the sex of the plant. Spotting a male is a very important skill to have as males can cause detrimental problems for any grow, at home or in a warehouse. Check your plants every day and look for anything that might look like the male version as seen below:
If you find anything like what is in that photo, remove the plant immediately, as it is likely a male. Make sure to document everything possible on the, weekly check-up sheet, use the back for personal notes or observations that you feel should be documented.
After this, it is time for the plant to grow. All of the gardeners recommended using TGA gardening soil along with TGA super soil for the duration of the plants life.
Cloning and Flowering
After you determine the sex of the plants, and remove all the males, and before you move the plants to flower, it is now time to take clones. In our demonstration we took three clones of every strain and each pheno that were left. Again, organization and labeling are absolutely imperative in a successful hunt. According to the panel of master gardeners, the most important part of pheno hunting is ensuring that you run each pheno three times through its complete life cycle.
Though you have already eradicated the male vermin from your garden it is still possible for things to go wrong. Stress and genetic factors can cause the sex to change or for the plant to turn into a hermaphrodite, a person or animal having both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics, either abnormally or (in the case of some organisms) as the natural condition. Which will again lead to possibly detrimental problems for your garden.
Different phenos can look very similar, or, look like two totally different strains. Different looking phenos can help keep yourself organized. A fine example is shown in the pictures below:
Similar phenos like the ones in the picture below make it very difficult to determine the different phenos, which is why labeling is so important.
Testing and Repeat
After the harvest is complete and your flower is dry and you have completed your finishing steps, it is time for testing. Make sure you find a reputable lab, one that is trusted and used by other growers you trust. It also doesn’t hurt to try a different lab and get a second opinion. Like always make sure your test samples are clean, organized and labeled properly before submitting the samples to the lab. Putting the wrong label on a sample could cause you to lose that perfect pheno with weak test results from another pheno.
Understand that test results vary and each lab has their own procedures and machines that can influence the test results greatly. Other factors that can influence your crops test results could be as simple as the moisture level in the finished product. If people aren’t aware of these things they can be saddened, discouraged, or downright outraged at the numbers they see. But don’t lost hope. Repeat this process three times and unlock the full potential of each pheno before making your decision, which is completely based on your own personal preference. Once you choose to eliminate any pheno, remember that pheno is essentially gone forever.
Pheno-hunting is one of the most important things of any established grow. Following these steps and finding the perfect pheno that provides the best possible product will help set you apart from all of the up and coming growers that have taken advantage, or will inevitably take advantage, of the new laws and regulations in your area. Maintain organization and diligence to find the best possible pheno.