The age-old issue
Short seasons have burdened growers since the Neolithic era—when humans first started practicing agriculture. Although we developed tips, tricks, and techniques over thousands of years, no tactic could fully alleviate the headaches and frustration that were brought about by even the mere thought of coping with a short season. A short season is typically defined as a block of time when growing conditions are initially favorable, then shift to less-favorable due to seasonal climate changes like lower temperatures, lower humidity, or frost.
From backyard hobby gardens to commercial-scale agricultural operations, short seasons can affect nearly all agriculture practices. Historically, the greater the distance from the equator that a crop is being cultivated, the higher the risk that a grower will run into short season issues. Additionally, elevation above sea level can also play a role in how likely you are to experience a shorter growing season.
With the rapid expansion of the cannabis and hemp industries, growers have quickly learned that these crops are just as vulnerable to the threat of a short season as others. A short season for a cannabis or hemp grow can result in detrimental effects like reduced revenue from crop loss, increased expenses from additional labor, replanting needs, reduced crop yield or quality, and unmanageable pests or pathogens. Fortunately, technological advancements and data analytics have resulted in an approach that permits cannabis grow operators to focus less on seasonal changes in the field and more on their passion, cannabis cultivation.
Autoflower genetics - The hero cannabis growers need
The history of autoflowering cannabis is a topic that is still debated. By most records, the first commercially marketed autoflower cannabis variety, Lowryder, was introduced during the early 2000’s. As efforts progressed to create genetics that gave growers better control over the threat of a short season, new varieties and phenotypes were introduced.
The introduction of autoflowering cannabis hasn’t been without some hurdles along the way. Early varieties were often criticized for lower cannabinoid composition, terpene content, and yield, when compared to photosensitive varieties. However, thanks to the ingenuity of researchers and breeders along the way, the majority of these hurdles have been eliminated through selective breeding. In fact, recent autoflowering varieties are capable of producing a harvest akin to that of photosensitive varieties.
Thanks to progress that has been made in the past decade, autoflowering genetics have quickly become the belle of the ball for commercial cannabis and hemp operations. Growers already have enough tasks to juggle as it is, so implementing measures that may decrease the burdens of agriculture are always a welcome addition. Now, more than ever before, commercial cannabis growers are making the switch to autoflowering genetics.
Understanding the advantages of autoflowering cannabis and hemp
Although there may have been some validity in concerns held by farmers around early iterations, advances in autoflower genetics (or autos) have largely alleviated most of these perceived risks. Let’s explore a few of the tangible benefits that can be achieved by incorporating modern autos into your grow op.
Reduced Time to Harvest - Simply put, autoflower varieties typically present growers with an earlier harvest window in comparison to photos. This translates to getting to market faster than the competition.
Ability to Stagger Harvests - With a faster maturation and eliminating light deprivation requirements, grow operations that utilize autoflowers will find themselves in a position to produce multiple harvests during longer growing seasons. Some growers even stagger their operation with photosensitive varieties as well, which helps prevent processing bottlenecks and provides a higher likelihood of a constant revenue stream.
Data-Driven Advancements - With modern crop science companies like Phylos leading the way in data-driven advancements of autoflower cannabis and hemp varieties, continuous improvements in terms of cannabinoid and terpene composition, pathogen and pest resistance, yield, and sustainability are all advantages that can be expected of auto varieties.
Higher Flower Harvest Index - Historically based on the cannabis ruderalis subspecies of cannabis, autoflower varieties are typically smaller in stature than photosensitive varieties. Although you may be quick to think, “oh, a smaller plant means less yield”, this isn’t necessarily the case if we compare apples to apples…or cannabis to cannabis. Modern autos maintain a higher harvest index (HI), which is the measure of flower to biomass. Given their compact stature, some autos like Phylos’ AutoCBD variety maintain an impressive flower harvest index of 61%. Cannabis or hemp with higher flower harvest indices are optimal for use in extraction facilities. More flowers per plant than biomass like stems and stalks, means less unwanted byproduct and ultimately, a higher value per pound for processors.
Potential Reduction in Labor Expense - With smaller, more manageable plants, comes the ability to more accurately space your crops in a manner congruent with mechanical harvesting machinery.
Improved Manageability and Predictability - Autos eliminate the need to actively monitor daylight conditions in an attempt to create the optimal conditions like you may have experienced with photosensitive varieties. This independence from daylength gives growers more flexibility.
Exploring recent advancements in autoflower
As mentioned, autoflower varieties have improved significantly over the past decade, further securing their use-case for cannabis and hemp operations across the nation. However, as you might suspect, not all modern autoflower genetics are as advanced as others. When first introduced to the market, autoflower genetics didn’t exactly receive a warm reception by growers. Many breeders considered autos a novelty and at the time, photosensitive varieties were receiving the bulk of breeding improvement efforts. Initial auto genetic offerings were considered crude and rough, lacking uniformity and productivity. However, thanks to creative minds at modern crop science companies like Phylos, improved autoflower genetics are poised to revolutionize the cannabis and hemp industries.
By applying data analytics and rigorous R&D breeding practices, Phylos has significantly improved nearly all aspects of autoflower varieties, when compared to those of the past. Making new F1 hybrid autoflower varieties like AutoCBD Alpha Explorer and AutoCBD Alpha Nebula commercially available, Phylos is in a position to help hemp growers maximize output at every level.
If you find yourself thinking it would be nice to have access to a photo x auto hybrid, their PhotoCBD line was developed by taking some phenotypic traits of photos — higher yield, cannabinoid, and terpene content — and combining the sought after attributes of autos — faster maturation, high harvest index, and increased early season vigor — to deliver a short-season, feminized photosensitive F1 for early market access. Their cannabis genetics are no stranger to the vast improvements of autos either.
The science behind Phylos’ autoflowers have put their genetics lightyears ahead of others. Utilizing genetic markers, Phylos selects plants that maintain naturally occurring traits for their breeding program. This enables not only the quick development of seed variety choices, but also helps provide profitable, sustainable, and stable solutions to growers who need consistency and reliability. Phylos’ F1 hybrid varieties put growers in a position to get the most out of their production with flower quality that is nothing short of remarkable, with a consistently high cannabinoid output. Furthermore, their feminization rate (99.9%+) allows growers to maximize production space and reduce the chance of unexpected pollination events. Phylos’ autoflower advancements also alleviate any concerns of uniformity and genetic stability with the introduction of their F1 hybrid seed lines.
The future of autoflower
Being part of the cannabis or hemp industries during the past decade has been exciting for most agricultural operators, but the past ten years can’t hold a candle to the changes that we will see in the very near future. With the amelioration of autoflower genetics and continued easing of regulatory hurdles, there’s no better time than now to make your place in the cannabis or hemp industry.
Reach out to Phylos and a team member can provide additional guidance on selecting the best genetics for your grow or impart information around how you can maximize yield per acre and lower agronomic costs of your existing operation. The future of cannabis awaits.
- The draft genome and transcriptome of Cannabis sativa
- The history of autoflowering cannabis seeds - Cannaconnection.com
- Frontiers | Evaluation of G × E × M Interactions to Increase Harvest Index and Yield of Early Sown Wheat | Plant Science
- AutoCBD Hemp Seed
- AutoCBD Alpha Explorer Hemp Seed
- AutoCBD Alpha Nebula Hemp Seed
- PhotoCBD Hemp Seed