Marijuana Tissue Culture - Is it worth it?
With the entry of big money into the marijuana industry, methods and priorities are changing. The traditional setup of warehouse-turned-grow-op is evolving into large-scale super professional cultivation buildings which spare no expense in creating the most productive and high-tech facilities imaginable.
Marijuana propagation has traditionally been done through a method technically known as vegetative propagation- a process by which branches are taken off of good quality female "mother" plants and placed in conditions that support the emergence of new roots. This is a fairly straight forward process that can multiply the number of available marijuana plants exponentially.
Tissue culture, on the other hand, is more difficult. This is mainly due to the necessity of a sterile environment. Proponents rightly claim some advantages to this method. For one, you can do it with a small piece of leaf matter, which is admittedly very cool. Another major advantage is that the culturing process removes all bacterial and viral illnesses that might have existed previously in the plant. Third, the genetic condition of the strain is 100% retained, whereas vegetative propagation possibly allows for tiny amounts of mutation over time, although the changes are not often significant. Last, tissue cultured cannabis, once you are set up for it, can be done with less space and energy.
You might notice from some casual web searches on marijuana tissue culture that hardly anyone is really doing it, and very few people can prove that they have succeeded with it. Except for the retention of genetic lines, few people would be motivated to set up a tissue culture environment when it's not necessary since vegetative propagation is a much simpler and more guaranteed method, and it's also highly productive in a small amount of space.
Again, the necessity of sterility is the key factor here. Even a microscopic amount of bacteria or fungus in the air can infect and ruin your culture, which is the most likely fate for home hobbyists. If some of your specimens do manage to avoid infection, then it can take a few weeks to turn them into plants, which is another turn-off for traditional propagators, who are accustomed to waiting only 6-10 days for new plants.
Given the challenges involved with cannabis tissue culturing, it is a method that is most likely best left to well financed cannabis companies who are focused on genetics and strain libraries more so than wholesale and retail marijuana plant distribution.
Jennifer Martin is a pioneer in American cannabis cloning. Having supplied Bay Area marijuana dispensaries since the passage of Prop 215 in 1996, she helped bring over 2 million marijuana plants into the world. She also won the 1998 San Francisco Bay Area Cannabis Cup with the strain Bubbleberry, by a 32-point spread on a scale of 200. She has never entered a Cannabis Cup since due to her focus on cloning.