What are autoflowering cannabis strains?
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Autoflowering strains have been around for a while now and their popularity has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Nowadays every respectable seed bank or breeder offers autoflowering strains in their catalogue, be it completely new strains or autoflowering varieties of their most popular products.
All this hype is not without reason, as autoflowering strains carry certain qualities, that are interesting to breeders and growers alike. To learn more about these characteristics and the origin of autoflowering strains one needs to get to know the Cannabis ruderalis. This hardy species of cannabis is the starting point of the whole story of autoflowering cannabis.
Unbeknownst to common knowledge, there are three species of cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis is a little bit different from the globally popular sativas and indicas.
Originating in central Russia, it was first scientifically identified in 1942 in Siberia by the Russian botanist Janischewski. He discovered a unique variety of cannabis and concluded he had come upon a third species.Rarely growing above a height of two feet, it is a hardy plant, that has low levels of THC, but high levels of CBD. "Rudera" is the Latin word for rubble, which goes to show, that ruderalis is a sturdy, weed-like plant.
However, the main difference from the two more popular cannabis species is, that Cannabis ruderalis isn’t photoperiod-dependent, meaning, that it doesn’t produce flowers based on the light cycle of the sun, but rather based on its age. In other words, the Cannabis ruderalis “autoflowers”. And this is the genetic background of all autoflowering strains.
After the introduction of Cannabis ruderalis to various seed banks in the 80’s and 90’s, breeders had the idea of creating highly potent, fast flowering and resistant hybrid cannabis strains, whose flowering phase didn’t depend on the light cycle.
To accomplish this they needed to cross an autoflowering strain and a photoperiodic strain and after that cross their progeny until they have a stabilized autoflowering strain.
Once you have carefully stabilized the ruderalis genes, the result will be a strain, that has many benefits to the grower. First of all, flowering mostly starts after 2-3 weeks and the whole lifespan lasts under 13 weeks.
Not only that, but as autoflowering strains aren’t photoperiod-dependent, they can have the same light cycle throughout the whole grow, which means, that you don’t need separate spaces for the vegetative and flowering phase.
These flowering characteristics help the grower to produce multiple harvests outdoors in one season. Most autoflowering strains grow short in height, which is a great way to control or conceal grows and also to breed sativa strains, that don’t reach for the stars.
Another thing, that the ruderalis genes carry, is the robustness of the species. Autoflowering strains are great for growing in northern climates, as they are more resistant to cold and don’t need a lot of sunlight.
And last but not least, the high levels of CBD in Cannabis ruderalis grant breeders the possibility to create strains with high medicinal value. If all of this sounds a little bit too good, fear not, as even autoflowering strains have their downsides.
Critics find, that many autoflowering strains produce low yields due to their short height and fast flowering. This was seen as a major downside, especially after the initial disappointment with Lowryder results the end of the nineties.
On top of that, it is argued, that autoflowers are lacking in THC, with Cannabis ruderalis being the main reason for this due to it being similar to industrial hemp concerning THC levels.
Breeders were aware of these deficiencies after the initial surge of autoflowering strains and have in most cases successfully battled these issues. Modern-day autoflowering strains don’t have a problem with producing amazing yields and reaching THC levels of 20%.
It seems, that cannabis growing is an ever-changing game. Day to day people devise new methods, new equipment and new strains, that bring something new to the table. Autoflowering cannabis strains have been a big success for some time now and rightfully so.
We just hope, that the future of autoflowering strains and cannabis growing in general, will be as bright and interesting as the last 20-30 years have been.