American agriculture is entering a new age of cash crops, with cannabis and hemp production leading the pack. Cannabis was estimated to have had a $28.3 billion market value in 2021, with signs pointing to nearly seven times that valuation by 2028. In the newly bustling production market, a fundamental debate rages about the benefits of cultivating cannabis from seeds or clones (also called cuttings).
There are several fundamental reasons we built the company “Atlas Seed,” not “Atlas Clones.” Let’s explore the reasons why we think seeds have always won out over clones for discerning growers, and why they are here to stay in the long run.
The Basics: Access, Environmental Stressors, and Taproots
Securing quality clone cuttings is a true hurdle for cannabis growers who pursue that method of propagation. Seeds are small, easy-to-store, and inexpensive to transport, which contributes to their ease of access and use. By contrast, bringing clones into a grow facility will require more careful planning: clones cannot be stored as seeds can and must be kept alive throughout the pricier shipping process. An immense variety of seeds can be discreetly shipped across the world, while cuttings limit your cultivar selection to what is regionally available.
Growers who are able to secure quality clone cultivars may find their clones come with unwanted baggage. Common clone afflictions like root rot, serious pests like hop latent viroid, and mildew mean cultivators should quarantine outside cuttings to avoid introducing potential cross-contamination with other plants in the growing operation. This can be costly in time, space, resources, and expense. In addition to these hazards, clones are quite sensitive to environmental stressors and are more prone to be affected by any number of issues.
A fundamental difference between seeds and clones is the presence of a taproot. Cuttings do not produce this deeper and stronger central root while cannabis plants cultivated from seeds do. The taproot does double-duty as a nutritional anchor for the plant, helping to increase water and nutrient uptake while simultaneously providing greater stability. This winning combination of traits makes for a sturdier plant with increased quality yield. Meanwhile, clones that have made it past quarantine may still experience shock or even die, wasting still more of your cultivation operation’s time, space, resources, and capital.
Genetic Selection — Pheno-Hunting and Cultivar Stabilization
By definition, clones are genetically identical. Correspondingly, they have the same strengths and weaknesses as the mother plant they’re sourced from. If she is blight-sensitive, the cuttings that come from her will be, too. Seeds provide a greater variety of genetic diversity and are nature’s way of innovating or trying out various survival techniques.
Seeds provide growers access to cultivars they may not otherwise be able to secure and allow for a truly entrepreneurial, individualistic approach to building a specialized brand cultivar. Cannabis growers can select desirable traits from seed-grown plants over time, a process known as pheno-hunting. For legacy growers, this process of pheno-hunting and its partner activity — cultivar stabilization — is nothing new. In fact, every named cultivar from OG Kush to Girl Scout Cookies was crafted via this multigenerational cultivation process. Growers, and the companies that back them, are positioned to gain much from specialized genetic selection by creating proprietary, exclusive cultivars to offer to consumers which only they have access to and perhaps even the patents for.
Cannabis Seeds are the Past and the Future of Large-Scale Production
Seeds have always been nature’s way of encouraging genetic diversity. The genetic pea experiments of monk and teacher Gregor Mandel in 1856 sparked an era in which humans seek ways to harness the potential of seeds via selective breeding. At Atlas Seed, we’ve been following that path to its next advancement by eliminating seed-cultivation drawbacks that have troubled growers for generations.
Feminized autoflower seeds provide all the above mentioned benefits of growing with seeds while eliminating two classic drawbacks: accidental male plants and long growing timelines. Atlas specializes in pairing seed feminization with autoflower capabilities to yield a fast, sturdy genetic that can provide vigor and yield. This cannot be replicated with clones. Autoflower is also a great option for growers nationwide because these plants are not light-sensitive. They will automatically flower on their own at a particular point of their maturity independent of how much light they’re getting. They have much shorter life cycles which is appealing to production growers and the business’s profit margin.
For brands to create consistent, high-yield cannabis, seed cultivation is the only truly viable option. On the outdoor cultivation side, autoflowering feminized seeds could help to drive more cost-effective harvests across the country, even in agricultural regions with irregular sunlight. In addition to affecting profits, this technology evens the playing field between indoor and outdoor cultivators and potentially helps to boost agriculture in many regions where the entire sector is in decline.
It’s imperative to combine the seeds nature gives us with hard-earned agricultural knowledge and scientific advancement to find the most efficient solutions for the future. Seeds have always been both literal and metaphoric holders of potential. They say nature is the best engineer, meaning we should keep looking to its example to find truly great solutions.
Atlas Seed specializes in feminized, day-neutral, or “autoflowering” cannabis and hemp varieties bred for agronomic qualities, including yield, mold resistance, and total cannabinoid content. Atlas Seed was founded by seasoned winegrape, vegetable, and cannabis farmers in Sonoma County, California who were searching for genetics that didn’t yet exist: uniform, stable, and vigorous hybrids that would fit into their existing, time-tested agricultural model.