Cannabis Breeding & Backcrossing

Use Cannabis Genetics to Backcross Recessive Traits

First you will select the desirable plants that have the traits that you like, and create an F2 population of them through full sib-mating.

You will then select the plants showing your desired trait, which is within the F2 population, and then hybridize this plant with the recurrent parent…this will create a BC1 population (click here to learn more).

Next, you will select plants from the BC1 population and create a generation of F2 plants through sib-mating; which will result in the generation known as BC1F2.

You will then select plants showing the recessive trait within the BC1F2 generation and hybridize that plant with the recurrent parent, which will create the BC3 generation.

With the BC3, these will be grown out, then select and sib-mate the most ideal applicants for the recessive traits that you like, and use them for inbreeding, or open pollination.

The F2 generation has on average of about 93.7% of the genes from the recurrent parent, and only about 6.3% of the genes from the donor parent.

It is good to know that when you are backcrossing to incorporate a recessive trait is that only homozygous-recessives are chosen for the mating within the BC3F2 generation, resulting in the BC3F3 generation to be homozygous for this recessive trait and breeds true for this recessive trait.

Backcrossed derived lines are expected to be well-adapted to the environment in which they will be grown in.

This method of breeding is often used by growers who grow indoors.

The downside of backcrossing are when the recurrent parent is not very true-breeding and result in generations that are segregate with the many traits are deemed desirable, but fail to be reproduced consistently.

Another limitation is that the ‘enhanced’ variety differs only slightly from the recurrent parent, with usually only a one trait difference.

If there are multiple traits that are being selected and introduced into a new population, other techniques like inbreeding or recurrent selection will be more worthwhile.

Selfing Cannabis for Breeding

Selfing” is the process of creating a seed by fertilizing a plant with pollen obtained from itself.

The result of selfing is a population that is derived from one parent, known as S1 then every generation after is S2, S3, etc.

With selfing plants their traits remain the same upon selfing.

The plants traits are homozygous and will remain homozygous when selfing, whereas a heterozygous plant will show differently and may reveal unique appearance of these characters.

Each self’ed generation leads to an increase in characteristics by 50%.

Repeated selfing or single-seed descent is the fastest way to achieve homozygosity with a group or family.

With plants grown from self’ed populations there is a better probability of finding self-progeny of all desired traits within a plant.

Single-seed descent is a plant that is self-fertilized and the resulting seeds are collected.

Each plant is self’ed, generation after generation, without any other plants other than itself and after six generations of selfing (S6) 98.44% of the genes are homozygous.

Recurrent selection is designed to concentrate the favorable genes by repeated cycles of selection for favorable traits so the first step is to identify superior genotypes for the trait that you are selecting.

Next, inter-mate the genotypes and then select the improved offspring then you repeat these two (2) steps over several generations.

Pedigree selection is individual plants that are selected in segregating generations from a cross on the basis of desirability or pedigree.

Ploidy Breeding

Cannabis plants by nature are diploids with twenty (20) chromosomes.

At meiosis, each one of the parents contributes ten (10) chromosomes each to the zygote that they have formed.

Cannabis cells may also be a haploid (which is having 1 copy of each chromosome set) as in gametes or diploid (2 chromosome sets per cell).


If there is no variation for the traits that you are looking for or cannot be found within other populations, it is theoretically possible to induce variation to seeds and tissues to radiation, alkylating agents or other mutagens such as colchicine or EMS (ethylmethylsulfonate).

These things will make changes to the DNA and result in desirable traits to show, though you have no control over what changes with the plants DNA.

By applying any of these agents it does not increase the potency of the plant, but merely changes their plant structure.

These mutagens can destroy genes along with chromosomes; these are then passed on to future generations when they are bred.

Inducing variability is not the best option, at least for the grower, who is also a hobby breeder.

Let us know what you think.

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