Bootstrapping Cannabis: Photoautotrophic Micropropagation of Cannabis is Now Viable

Written by Nicholas Demski
A recent study showed promising results of an in vitro, sugarless propagation technique for cannabis cultivation.

Bootstraps. Hard work. Resolve.

These words are synonymous with what has made the United States an economic powerhouse.

Hard-working Americans have shown that coupling ideas with grit can turn into something viable and productive.

Now, researchers are showing that there is a way to apply these same principles to cannabis cultivation. More importantly, they’re showing that it works just as well.

Earlier this year, researchers published a paper that looked into developing an alternative in vitro plant propagation system for cannabis. [1]

In the past, growers have commonly noted difficulties in growing cannabis plants in vitro (in a Petri dish) with micropropagation. Micropropagation refers to using tissue culture to propagate a plant. Such difficulties include:

  • Increased susceptibility to disease
  • A higher degree of likelihood of insect invasion
  • Stunted growth

In fact, it can be even worse than that. The researchers pointed out that micropropagation “can result in off-types whose morphology does not resemble normal plantlets.”

In other words, the plants can grow in ways that alter not only its physical properties but its metabolic functions, as well.

According the researchers, their aseptic method of micropropagation helps avoid these problems. Their goal was to produce “vigorous plants of high quality.” During the process, the researchers prepared the aseptic stock cultures by:

  1. Raising pest-free cannabis in a glass house.
  2. Taking shoot tip cuttings below the third node and removing the lowest leaf.
  3. Rinsing and sterilizing the surface of the cuttings.
  4. Transferring the cuttings (shoot tip and two nodes) to forced ventilated glass jars or RITA containers (temporary immersion bioreactor containers from CIRAD and distributed by Vitropic) and placing them in the growth chambers.

Once the plants were prepared, they were maintained with the use of a specialized system that provided moisturized air. At two weeks, the researchers introduced nutrient solution.

After five weeks into their experiment, the researchers found success. The authors’ data showed that “95% of the newly initiated shoot tips had grown on and were rooted and well developed.”

Moreover, they found that it’s possible to maintain these types of stock cultures for up to six months. Even better, the plants seemed to thrive.

The researchers noted that the plantlets’ “leaves were dark green and compound, shoots had clearly defined internodes and there were no signs of hyperhydricity. Plantlets resembled their nursery [analogs].”

In other words, many of the problems that growers were facing before with in vitro propagation were overcome. Without the use of sugars, vitamins, or any plant growth regulators, some growers may be worried that this isn’t a viable option. However, the researchers showed that “survival of rooted cuttings in the glasshouse was 100%.” [1]


  1. Kodym, A. & Leeb, C.J. “Back to the Roots: Protocol for the Photoautotrophic Micropropagation of Medicinal Cannabis.” Plant Cell Tiss Organ Cult, vol.138, 2019: 399. [Times cited = N/A; Journal Impact Factor = 2.200]

About the author

Nicholas Demski

Nicholas Demski's latest venture is TheCannabiologist.com. He's a poet, author, cannabis writer, and budding entrepreneur. You can follow his travels with his daughter on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram @TheSingleDadNoma

Leave a Comment