Fun fact! The term has two applications – the botanical term variety and the legal term variety. The botanical term variety is essentially a taxonomic label – it refers to the rank in the botanical hierarchy – a variety occupies the space below sub-species but above sub-variety. As a legal term, variety means following the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention. For plant breeders’ rights to be granted, the new variety must meet four criteria under the rules established by UPOV. The new plant must be novel, meaning it must not have been previously marketed in the country where rights are applied. The new plant must be distinct from other available varieties. The plants must display homogeneity (uniformity of the stand). The trait or traits unique to the new variety must be stable to keep the plant true to type after repeated propagation cycles.
The species makes an acid version for each cannabinoid –CBDa, THCa, CBGa, etc. Acid forms naturally convert over time into active cannabinoids or can be quickly converted in high heat conditions (typical industry method) –a process called decarboxylation. There is some loss during decarboxylation. The formula for calculating total potential THC is THC + (THCa*.877)=delta 9 THC (Total potential THC). Again, THC (or Delta 9 THC) refers to the cannabinoid post-decarboxylation or total potential THC.
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol: the active ingredient in cannabis, giving it its narcotic and psychoactive effects. Thus far, THC is the only cannabinoid proven to provide the user with a “high.” Cannabinoids are found in both high-THC cannabis and low-THC cannabis; THC is one of many.
Flower samples are prepared and submitted POST THRESH, which means the material we test is dried and mechanically threshed, not flower that has been trimmed and gingerly handled. We submit at least ten samples of post-threshed flower each season and select one that is most representative of the average content. Average content post-thresh is a critical factor for large-scale production.
Environment indeed plays a role in many plant traits. With some traits, it plays a more significant role, and some a more minor role. Scientists call this “G by E” or genetics by environment. University research shows cannabinoid pathways are primarily controlled by genetics – over 80%, and the environment influences the remaining 20%. This is excellent news! Stable cannabinoid profiles across regions are absolutely attainable in well-bred varieties, as evidenced by many EU and Canadian varieties. The variation seen in the current market is likely due to poorly bred genetics. Like any plant species, the best seed is well-bred to adapt to your region and climate. Though major traits will remain stable, variety performance will vary slightly within a region. Importantly, cannabinoid content should not have significant variances.
Well-packaged, clean seed with a label that conforms to federal law. Get to know the company. Outlandish claims like 100% feminization, 100% germination, and extremely high or low cannabinoid content should be validated by respectable 3rd party data. Proof of stability: Stability means the variety has performed consistently for several generations. Asking for current and parent seed data can help determine if the genetics are stable. Stability is essential for THC content. Well-bred seed should have compliant THC content across at least 2-3 generations. AOSCA certified seed: This is 3rd third-party validation that the seed has been grown according to AOSCA Standards to maintain genetic purity. Seed lots that complete the seed certification process qualify for the official “Blue” Certified seed tag. Seed that has been bred for your production methods and equipment. Seed that has demonstrated performance in your region or has been bred using data-based breeding. Understand the market the variety serves. Identify customers for your crop before you plant.
NWG’s first products to market are dioecious varieties in the ABOUND family. NWG has also released the first hemp hybrid in the form of the AMPLIFY™ trait. Hemp is ancestrally dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are found on separate plants. NWG has created a genetically skewed ratio of male: female from its ancestral 50:50, up to 100% female, in effect doubling hemp grain and flower production.
A dioecious plant is one where the male and female reproductive systems occur on separate plants. While both plants produce flowers, one plant has male reproductive parts, and the other has female parts. This is unlike a monoecious plant, which has both male and female flowers on the same plant.
There are many editing targets of interest in cannabis, including some editing events involving other crops and vegetables. The regulatory path for GE crops is unclear, but it is costly. Many of the GE systems require a transformation system and suffer from the same methodological limitations of transgenics. Even GE systems, which do not require a transgenic delivery system, require a reliable method for generating plants from protoplasts, which is also not a reality today. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the freedom to operate with CRISPR-Cas and other editing methods is uncertain due to litigation around the foundational patents.
There is no published, reproducible transformation system for getting transgenic events into Cannabis. Some have claimed to have successfully created transgenic Cannabis, but this has yet to be validated independently. More product manufacturers are seeking verification from the non-GMO Project, so the motivation to develop new, transgenic-based products is waning. This is particularly true given that the creation and deregulation of a transgenic event is, on average, a lengthy 13-year regulatory process with costs exceeding $100M. However, there is value in utilizing transgenic tools to validate gene function within the R&D setting.