The cultivation industry has experienced a great evolution over the past few centuries. Huge advancements that have gone from basically throwing seeds onto the ground to new methods that involve the cellular reproduction of plants. The new tendency to legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana has opened the door to new cultivation methods; such as the development and implementation of hydroponics, growing CBD-rich strains or new ways to produce plants, for example cannabis micropropagation.
All growers want to set up the best conditions for their plants, especially regarding their hygiene or health. Scientific advances in the botanical field offer alternatives to classic cultivation and reproduction methods. One of them is the micropropagation or reproduction using cultivation tissue. This new technique, different to clone cuttings, obtains healthy plants, free of infections and perfectly suitable for cultivation.
What is Micropropagation in Cannabis Plants ?
Technically, micropropagation is the in-vitro cultivation of plants using cells or vegetable tissues from a carefully selected mother plant. This tissue is known as explants and it’s introduced inside a sterile recipient with a neuter liquid to start developing. Thanks to micropropagation, it is now possible to create thousands of identical clones of the same plant, free of illnesses and with intact organoleptic properties.
This reproduction system is a great advancement for the cannabis industry as it can be of great help to growers and weed companies. By replicating the properties of the plant, it becomes an exact clone exhibiting the same height, nutritional needs, effects, tinges and exact cannabinoid composition. This would make growing tasks a lot easier; as it will be possible to control the yield, making sure it doesn’t exceed the THC levels established by law. An interesting door to research, as the results could mark a before and after in the cannabis scenario.
Vegetable biotechnology and its evolution
The cultivation of functional plants through micropropagation is now a widely spread and popular botanical technique. The start of this method goes back as far as the start of the XX century. Austrian botanic expert Gottlieb Haberlandt (1854-1945) used the idea of cellular totipotency, where vegetable cells can regenerate to become full plants.
By following this pattern, he managed to standardize the cultivation of vegetable tissues. He is known as the father of the technique. Thanks to his hard work, vegetable hormones became part of the process.
The introduction of hormones like cytokinin, in charge of promoting cell division and organogenesis, was a great progress. In the 60’s they finally isolated the first virus-free plants (apical meristems). This lead to the generalization of micropropagation for different purposes; such as to prevent the extinction of certain vegetable species, mass cultivation, or the proliferation of species in concrete habitats. The propagation term first arose in 1986 and it has been part of vegetable biotechnology ever since.
How does micropropagation take place
The reproduction process from cells or vegetable tissues holds different stages. However, depending on the crop, the process can be shorter and simpler or longer and with more stages. Forest species, for example, require extra time, known as “endurance”.
First, crops have to grow in-vitro to preserve a sterile atmosphere to avoid parasite infections, fungi and other illnesses. Choosing a healthy and strong mother is essential as clones will exhibit the exact same properties. After the selection, the vegetable matter needs to be sterilized to avoid the proliferation of pathogens inside the recipient.
Afterwards, the tissue or cells go into a sterile liquid so that the root can develop and start growing. This process has to take place in a safety flow cabinet to ensure an absolutely refined environment.
The intention is for the test tube to maximize the reproduction of explants. This would promote to grow as many clones as possible. This process is boosted with growth regulating hormones that promote root development. This part of the process can take place ex-vitro to start with soil acclimation. Lighting, plant adaptability and used methods are all important aspects that will influence the process.
Most known types of micropropagation in cannabis
- Organogenesis: It uses the plant’s vegetative buds to obtain stems, roots or flowers. This is the most used method because it offers fast and great quality results. Organogenesis can be direct or indirect, but both systems are seeking the morphogenetic response to form organs and generate a full plant from there.
- Embryogenesis: This system creates somatic embryos using somatic tissue. These embryos grow a stem and a root simultaneously. This method can also be carried out in two different ways, just like organogenesis.
-Direct embryogenesis: Occurs when embryos start directly from explant tissue in which the plant is going to develop.
-Indirect embryogenesis: Occurs when explants produce undifferentiated or partially differentiated cells that form a callus; which then produces an adventitial stem or of somatic seeds suitable for cultivation.
How far can cannabis micropropagation get?
Nowadays, these types of cultivations take place in a lab. They require a lot of technical material and a sterile environment to avoid infections. An unfeasible economic outlay for most growers and entrepreneurs. There is an ongoing project to standardize the process and make affordable materials to help companies implement these methods.
With price regulations, growers and companies would have a greater profit margin to start using these types of processes. While it will require a lot of technique and knowledge, it is a huge step in the regulation and use of cannabis cultivation.