Feminized seed is just as it sounds, a seed source which produces predominantly female plants. A higher proportion of female plants is desirable since females are the source of almost all of the economically important products whether they be seed for grain or flower (e.g. buds) for extraction. Breeders of feminized seed do not select for agronomic traits for mechanical harvestability, even for basic agronomic traits like germination. It is possible they are simply feminizing other’s genetics.
Feminized seed is created by inducing female plants to become hermaphrodites via the application of chemicals like silverthiosulfate (Lubell and Brand, 2018). Hermaphrodite plants will have female flowers which accept pollen to create seed, as well as male flowers which release pollen. The theory is that chemically-induced pollen created on a female plant contains the female sex chromosome (an X chromosome), rather than the male (Y chromosome). Thus, the progeny seed created by pollination with a hermaphrodite will inherit an X chromosome from the pollen and an X chromosome from the ovum of female flower. The resulting seeds will be primarily females but there is not yet a method which always produces 100% females. This has implications to production using feminized seed (see the PRODUCTION section of our website).
The greatest handicap of feminized seed is the feminization – it makes no further seed to multiply, thus you must recreate it season by season, it cannot scale. One hundred pounds of NWG seed will render 100x each season, so one season will render ten thousand pounds. One hundred pounds of feminized seed will render zero lbs. This does require more typical harvest methods, check out our discussion of production innovation here