Sexing Weed Seeds

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If you didn’t know by now…girls rule in the world of weed. That’s because female plants are necessary for producing high-quality buds with high THC levels. In fact, unless a grower is breeding – male plants are typically discarded as soon as the sex of the plant presents itself. But, what if you didn’t have to wait for growth to tell the sex of cannabis seeds? There’s a common myth across the industry that you can identify the sex of cannabis seeds before they sprout. So, is it true? We set out for the answers, to find out. Continue reading → Are genetics the sole determinant of cannabis sex, or do growing conditions play a role too? Learn more in this article. When growing regular cannabis seeds the chances of them being male or female is 50/50. Find out how to tell the sex of you cannabis plant and ways to prevent any cross pollination happening.

Can you tell the sex of cannabis seeds?

If you didn’t know by now. girls rule in the world of weed. That’s because female plants are necessary for producing high-quality buds with high THC levels. In fact, unless a grower is breeding – male plants are typically discarded as soon as the sex of the plant presents itself. But, what if you didn’t have to wait for growth to tell the sex of cannabis seeds? There’s a common myth across the industry that you can identify the sex of cannabis seeds before they sprout. So, is it true? We set out for the answers, to find out.

Identifying A Seed’s Gender

Feminized , regular and feminized autoflowers are now widely available to purchase on the market today, however one question that continues to arise with growers beginning their crops is, can you tell the sex of cannabis seeds upon first sight? The quick answer is no. But, why? Basically, there’s no exterior signs that a seed is female vs. male – no matter what certain myths say.

Debunking Seed Gender Myths

Speaking of myths, the reason some growers think they can identify sex of cannabis seeds, is due in part to misinformation. Here are a few common myths that surround the sex of cannabis seeds, and how they’ve been debunked.

Appearance

Contrary to popular belief (and what an old-fashioned chart may say) a seed’s shape, size, and color has no bearing on the actual sex of a seed. All seeds, female, regular, or autoflower, can vary in appearance, with no actual trait as an indicator of sex, whatsoever.

The Roll Test

Another common myth is known as the ‘roll test’. The same relic that states seeds can be identified by their appearance, states that female seeds will roll more easily across a table, than males. Overtime, we’ve learned that this test is clearly flawed and fails at determining the sex of cannabis seeds.

Environment

Another old growing fable, is that the environment of your room or growing area, can change the sex of a seed during germination/seedling. For now, the jury is still out on whether this is 100% true. What we do know about environments, and cannabis seeds’ sex, is if a plant is stressed due to off-balanced conditions, it can cause plants to hermaphrodite during growth.

How Can You Tell The Sex?

So, if you can’t tell the gender of a seed by just looking at it, or rolling it. how are you supposed to tell the sex of cannabis seeds? Unfortunately for growers, you’ll just have to wait it out. The only answer to identifying your seed’s gender as early as possible, is waiting for it to show its sex during growth .

Most growers wait until the flowering stage to keep a careful eye on a plant’s sex. Without keeping a close eye, if you let males grow for too long in your space they can end up ‘breeding’ with the other females. This is detrimental to a crop, as it causes female plants to pop seeds themselves, diminishing the quality of the plant overall. Luckily, determining a seed’s sex in the early vegetative stages is possible.

If you’re anxious to know, one trick that some growers implement uses a technique that mimics light cycles from flowering. By placing a black bag over a small part of your veg plant you’ll trick the plant into thinking it’s time to flower. You can then check the sex of this small portion, before fully moving into its flowering stage.

Case Closed On Seeds & Gender

In growing, it’s all about learning and sometimes unlearning certain myths, tricks, or tips that you’ve been told. All in all, while cannabis is nothing new there’s still a lot to learn when it comes to specific questions like – can you tell the sex of cannabis seeds by looking at them? Thankfully, we were able to close the case on seeds and gender, by knowing there’s no way other than letting the plant flower to ultimately decipher sex of seeds.

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Cannabis Sex: What Determines It?

Both genetics and environment play a role in the determination of the sex of a cannabis plant. Many growers focus on the growing conditions to ensure that hermaphroditism does not take place, but genetics play just as important a role.

Cannabis sativa L. is a dioecious plant – in other words, the male and female sexes are expressed in separate plants. With that being said, some cases of hermaphroditism are known to occur. The most desirable and psychoactive component of the plant is formed in the female flowers. Thus, knowing how to differentiate between male and female plants is integral to any grow operation, whether commercial or at home.

Male cannabis plants have their purpose, too. Even if the buds are not harvested for sale or consumption, male plants are imperative to a breeding program. For this reason, growers and breeders must know the differences between male and female plants and what determines this, especially to avoid hermaphroditism.

Which factors influence the sex of a cannabis plant?

How and why the sex of cannabis plants is determined is a subject frequently discussed by cannabis growers all over the world.

The determination of gender in human beings is simple: the male, who possesses both X and Y chromosomes, either gives or does not give a Y chromosome to the embryo. If it does, the child is born a male. If it does not, the child is born female. However, recent studies have shown that under stressful conditions, the male is more likely to produce spermatozoa containing X chromosomes.

In human embryos, a single X chromosome and a single Y chromosome denote a male (XY). Two X chromosomes denote a female (XX). The combination of genetics from egg and sperm create a diploid cell, containing two chromosomes.

In the case of cannabis, things are a little more complicated. While cannabis has been identified as having diploid cells, there are researchers producing tetraploid plants of cannabis for the purpose of improving its medical qualities. Tetraploid cells contain four chromosomes of either X or Y (XXXX, XXXY, XXYY, XYYY or YYYY). However, it is unlikely that tetraploidy occurs in cannabis in nature.

Generally speaking, in mammals, sex is determined at birth, with no interference on physical sex by developmental conditions. For example, even under stressful circumstances, a female reproductive organ won’t turn into a male reproductive organ. However, this does occur in cannabis. Therefore, the genetic make-up of the seed cannot be the sole factor involved in determining the sex of marijuana plants.

It is for this reason that some cannabis growers place more importance on growing conditions. Under extreme or poor growing conditions, there is a predominance of male plants. This is not so farfetched, as the main objective of a cannabis plant is to procreate.

Essentially, for a male plant to grow under adverse conditions is a defense mechanism of the cannabis plant, as one male can pollinate hundreds of female plants. The effect of growing conditions on both male and female plants will be discussed later in the article.

So as the understanding of cannabis cultivation has it, both nature (genetics) and nurture (growing conditions) influence the sex of the cannabis plant. But how exactly does this work?

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1. Nature: The role of seed genetics

As much as growing conditions play a vital role in determining the sex of cannabis plants, there is also plenty of genetic information stored in seeds. In the presence of optimum growing conditions, it is the seed genetics which will determine the sex of the plant.

Botanists and researchers of this 2004 study identify fragments of gene sequencing that determine the sex for both male and female plants. They also identified certain gene fragments which may play a role in the development of hermaphrodite plants. In any case, the results of this study show that the genetics of a plant play a role in determining the sex. The commitment to a specific sex takes place as soon as the leaves of the fourth node emerge.

Remember, this is different to determining the sex of a plant as a grower. Cultivators do not need genetic identification material to understand if their plants are male or female. Rather, certain signs in early plant life can be used by a grower to help them determine the sex of their plant.

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2. Nurture: Growing conditions and feminisation

The feminisation of cannabis seeds is a perfect example of how cultivation conditions are also intrinsically linked to a plant’s final sex. Feminisation consists of taking a female plant and turning into a hermaphrodite by creating environmental stressors. At this point, certain female flowers will begin to produce pollen, which can then be used to pollinate the same plant. The final product is a feminized seed.

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Which external factors can affect which sex the cannabis plant manifests?

In general, plants that are subjected to stress around 3 weeks into vegetation are more likely to manifest male genetics. If stress takes place later on in vegetation or during flowering, a plant may be forced into hermaphroditism.

When humidity exceeds the optimum amount for cannabis, it is more likely that male plants will develop. In conditions with less relative humidity, it is more likely that female plants will develop.

Interestingly, the moisture of the soil is another environmental condition that can affect the sex of a cannabis plant. In soil that contains too little moisture, it is more likely that a male plant will develop.

The warmer the environment, the more likely it is that a male plant will develop. However, with that being said, it is possible that this stressor is linked with the photoperiod. In warmer climates, there are generally longer days and shorter nights, and the effect of temperature is inextricably linked with photoperiod.

In indoor cultivation programs, the grower may choose the colour of the light spectrum. The more blue light appears in the spectrum, the more likely that female plants will develop.

Finally, photoperiod is an important environmental condition that can affect sex. Shorter light hours per day usually results in more female plants, while longer exposure to light usually results in more male plants.

Ultimately, any grower can force a developed female plant into being a hermaphrodite by adjusting the environment. Changes in photoperiod, increasing the temperature, harvesting too late or over-fertilizing may all result in a female plant turning into a hermaphrodite. With that said, hermaphroditism may also occur as a result of genetics, as some strains are more prone to hermaphroditism than others.

When plants are kept in the correct optimum environment for their genetics, there is generally a small likelihood of hermaphroditism unless the seed is genetically prone. This is why growers must pay close attention to the cultivation environment to avoid hermaphroditism.

Long story short: As almost always, it’s not nature and nurture. A combination of both genetics and environment play a role in the determination of the sex of a cannabis plant.

Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.

How to sex marijuana plants

Regular cannabis seeds will generally develop into both male and female plants. If you’re unlucky, you may end up with the odd hermaphrodite plant. You need to remove both males and hermies as quickly as possible. Males don’t carry bud and you don’t want them fertilizing the females which do. Hermies do carry bud, but it’s very low quality. They also carry pollen and so can fertilise productive females. Basically, they’re more hassle than they’re worth. The best time to sex marijuana plants is during pre-flower. This is when they first become identifiable as male or female.

Beginner tip

If you are new to sexing marijuana plants, you probably want to start with a maximum of five seeds. Stick to the one strain, so you can easily compare your plants. You also want to leave plenty of space in your growing room so you can physically move plants. This will allow you to “sex in stages”. In other words, if you’re sure a plant is male you can just remove it. If you’re not sure, then you can separate your plants into “females” and “not sure”. Keep them far enough apart that there is no chance of pollen from the “not sures” reaching the females. Then you can work on definitely sexing the “not sures”.

Bonus tip

Statistics can play tricks on people. In principle, regular seeds have a 50/50 chance of being male or female. If you only sow one seed, then it can only be one sex or the other (unless it hermies). If you sow more than one seed then you may or may not get a mix of genders. The more seeds you sow, the more likely it is that you will end up with a mix of genders. It is, however, not guaranteed. You could still end up with all male plants or all female plants. Remember this when you are sexing your marijuana plants. Basically, go by what you see rather than what the statistics suggest you ought to have.

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How to sex marijuana plants

Frankly, the easiest way to sex marijuana plants is to use feminized seeds. If, however, you want to do it the “old-school” way, here’s what you need to know.

Step 1 – Go online

Look for videos showing the difference between a male cannabis plant and a female cannabis plant. If at all possible, look for videos which relate to the strain you’ve chosen. If you can’t find any, look for a comparable strain. In other words, if you’re growing a strain which is 80% Indica dominant, look for someone else growing a strain which is 80% Indica dominant. Then go and look for close-up images of the key parts. Yes, it will be different when you do it yourself. In fact the first time, you may find it a bit of a challenge. Looking at online resources, however, can definitely be a big help.

Step 2 – Stand back and look at your plants from a (bit of a) distance

Before you get caught up in details, take a look at the bigger picture. Male plants tend to grow quicker than females. They also tend to be slimmer and have less foliage. This is, of course, all relative. A male Indica is never going to be as leggy as a female Sativa. A female Sativa is never going to be as bushy as a male Indica. That’s why you want to stick to one strain at first. Then you can make like-for-like comparisons.

Step 3 – Look for pollen sacks

Pollen sacks look, quite literally, like tiny balls. They can be seen with just the naked eye. Having said that, a magnifying device can make the task a whole lot easier. If you see a pollen sack, then a plant is definitely male. If you don’t it may be female. Alternatively, it may still be in the process of development.

Step 4 – Look for pistils

In the pre-flowering stage, pistils are tiny white hairs. They are virtually impossible to spot without a magnifying device. Even with a magnifying device, it can be a challenge to see them at first. Later, as flowering continues, the pistils will become both very colourful and very obvious.

Step 5 – Clone the “not sures”

Take a cutting of the “not sures”. Let it grow for a few days. Then force flowering. The sex of the clone will also be the sex of the host. This trick is 100% accurate – as long as you keep accurate records of what cutting came from what host.

What is a hermaphrodite cannabis plant?

Hermaphrodite plants develop both male and female sexual parts. Hermaphrodite weed is lower in both quantity and quality than regular bud. Sometimes it’s still usable. Sometimes it’s only fit for the (composting) bin.

There are some strains which are frankly notorious for hermying. Reputable seed banks will mention this in their descriptions. You can also double-check with independent strain reviews. These strains are best left to the most experienced growers.

In general, most strains will only hermie if they are exposed to excessive stress. The big five causes of hermying are: ventilation, lighting, temperature, hygiene and handling.

Out of these, ventilation is usually the biggest issue. The reason for this is that it causes so many other problems. For example, poor ventilation means that your plants are too close together. This makes it hard for them to capture sufficient light and easier for them to overheat. It makes it harder for the grower to keep the growing room clean and easier for any problems to spread from one plant to another. Last but by no means least, it makes it harder for the grower to handle the plants appropriately and so easier for them to be damaged.

In short, if you choose a robust strain and remember your marijuana basics, then you should be able to avoid hermies. The less experience you have, the more important it is to choose a strain with solid genetics. Again, reputable seed banks will generally highlight strains which are particularly suitable for beginners. You can also check online for independent strain reviews.

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