In this article we introduce you to background information on the feminised seed production at Mandala Seeds and one of our product quality tests: the feminised stress test.
Our seeded mother plants are always grown organically in an ecologically friendly manner. We specialise in quality and not quantity to ensure optimal seed produce. All seed batches are pre-tested for germination and hand-selected for sale. Our product labels show the packing date so that you can keep track on storage time (see our main catalogue page for tips on how to store your seeds).
(Photo: Fruitylicious seeds)
One of the reversed females used as pollen donor for a feminised project. All pollen donors are carefully selected from desirable "real" females of a different genetic line. We never use true hermaphrodites or self-pollinate plants.
Reversed females and true hermaphrodites are very similar in appearance. They are often equally covered with male and female flowers, but sometimes only particular shoots carry more or less flowers of one sex. All of our pollen donors have gone through previous tests to determine quality and that they are truly female.
A pollinated Very Berry Hashberry for the seed production of Fruitylicious. Notice the amazing vigour and lush leaf canopy of this mother plant! Despite growing out many seeds she remains fresh right up to harvest. This is a fine example of how your plants should be growing if they are being kept healthy.
A close-up of the seriously fat Fruitylicious seeds in the making.
To ensure that you get to grow healthy plants like this one and harvest a clean sinsemilla crop, we have subjected our feminised strains to a strenuous stress test as part of our quality controls.
(Photo: California Dream)
We wanted to recreate some of the most common cultivation problems and errors. Therefore, a sufficient amount of plants per strain were made to suffer under multiple negative factors simultaneously. These began with the third week of vegetative growth and continued throughout flowering till harvest. Three major environmental factors were not part of the test: heat, unbalanced pH, and low light. The pH was specifically not influenced negatively (ie. too low or too high) because, in combination with all the other stress factors, this would have precipitated an early death of the plants. It was still necessary to keep them reasonably alive and growing in order to get a measurable result!
High temperatures, pH problems and low light do contribute substantially to poor plant health and are common factors in triggering male flowers or influencing sex in cannabis. Therefore, these situations should be avoided as much as possible when growing marijuana and feminised seeds in particular. It is your responsibility to choose strains wisely and grow those that can adequately cope with the cultivation conditions that you offer them.
In the early stages of flowering the fan leaves already show serious damage from nutrient deficiencies. This type of symptom is typical when the plants are root bound in small containers. The soil is depleted of nearly all major nutrients.
(Strain: California Dream)
An example of advanced chronic deficiencies combined with sudden overfeeding (signalled by the leaf curl and parts of the necrosis). The leaf canopy is severely damaged. Your plants should never look like this!
(Strain: California Dream)
This cross-section of a garden shows how all plants were equally affected by the negative conditions. Notice the severe yellowing of the fan leaves, necrosis, and leaf curl. Despite these incredible problems the plants continued to flower. (Strain: Far Out)
Resin production was still impressive under the circumstances. But any strain struggling under such adverse circumstances will still yield far below it's potential. Therefore, it is imperative to always keep your plants healthy for a maximum harvest.
(Strain: Far Out)
Here we have a good close-up that shows the impressive resin production on this female despite chronic nutrient imbalance, pests, and other disturbing factors. Most importantly is also the fact that the buds remained clean of male flowers, or single stamen (so called "bananas"). Male flowers tend to be located especially at internodes when they do appear. Single stamen would show dispersed among calyxes and can be hard to spot. They are, however, usually quite harmless contrary to what some growers expect.
By the time the plants in the test were harvested most of them had lost nearly all their fan leaves and looked quite "naked". Leaf drop is a common symptom of nutrient deficiencies, but also overfertilizing dries up the plant and destroys the leaves. Plants growing in small containers are constantly under stress. They do not have enough root space, natural soil minerals are quickly depleted, and the artificial fertilising easily overcompensates certain nutrients which leads to salts building up in the substrate.
Here we see a sample of some freshly trimmed resinous buds. All plants in the test were harvested and the manicured buds precisely inspected for any tell-tale signs of male flowers or seeds. If there are any dry male flowers or pollinated calyxes it is easy to spot them now.
Out of the entire population in the tests precisely two dry single stamen (so called "bananas") were found on one plant, and one more stamen on another plant. This is an amazing result for such severely stressed feminised females!
Even the most robust and healthy regular plants can produce a few isolated single stamens, as a natural biochemical reaction to sinsemilla (seedless) marijuana cultivation.
The stress test showed a sufficiently high measure of stress-resistance among our feminised strains. Among the current four strains we rate California Dream, Fruitylicious and Hubble Bubble as above average, and Far Out as average in handling the cultivation crisis. None of the plants developed real male flowers and they were completely unseeded. Also not a single plant turned out to be a true hermaphrodite. The occasional male stamen ("banana") can never be ruled out. But these are primarily harmless in nearly all cases, since they seldom contain or release any viable pollen and, even if they do, the amount would be just barely sufficient to pollinate a few neighbouring calyxes.
Of course, we have to put these results into perspective so that you don't jump to conclusions. Firstly, feminised genetics are inherently more prone than quality regular strains to a possible weakness in terms of producing male flowers. Secondly, the combinations of cultivation conditions are absolutely endless and always influence the biochemistry of your plants. What are the factors involved? Basically anything and everything can be decisive. Light and lamps, substrates, container sizes, water quality, pH fluctuations, temperature, hydroponics vs soil, specific pests, and the multitude of grow products used by growers in all sorts of combinations (organic teas, pesticides, enzymes, boosters, fertilisers, pH products, etc.). Usually it is a combination of more than one factor which triggers undesirable sex changes or stress reactions in cannabis.
The bottom line is that it is impossible to reconstruct every single possible grow scenario to test a strain. That's why the test results are a promising, but limited, statement on the stress-resistance of the strains. These results do not guarantee in any form whatsoever that everyone will have the same outcome of pollen-free plants under single or multiple extreme conditions or influences. What the test does demonstrate is how resilient and reliable the plants can be - especially if you keep them healthy, which is the ultimate aim of every grower! Therefore, keep your plants safe and happy for an enjoyable, bountiful crop!
Please do not succumb to "pollen paranoia" if you spot the occasional stamen or an isolated male flower on your plant(s)! There have been instances of growers throwing away perfectly healthy plants due to this. Simply remove isolated male flowers at the internodes with your fingers or tweezers. In the vast majority of cases the stamen/male flowers are harmless and, as long as the symptoms do not spread, there is no cause for concern.
To conclude, here are our top cultivation tips.
1. Avoid under- as well as oversized containers. Repot your plants rather than planting in one huge container.
2. Don't overwater the plants. Root growth is slower than with the regular strains.
3. Avoid excessive heat.
4. "Hot" soil mixes with a lot of nutrients or nitrogen are not recommended. Use a balanced soil mix for indoor.
5. Always monitor the pH of your water.
6. Start with a low EC/ppm in hydroponics and adjust according to plant requirements.
7. The strains have not been tested under low light. Providing a strong light source is definitely beneficial, more productive, and reduces plant stress. Avoid using low-wattage LED's and CFL lamps. These have poor performance and are waste of money and electricity. Both are inferior in many respects to a 150-250W HPS lamp, which provides much more efficiency in lumens per watt and a good light spectrum. A 400-600W HPS lamp should be used for flowering whenever possible.
8. Keep pests under control. Sticky traps will catch thrips, white flies and aphids round the clock. Set them up before germination to keep your space clean. Continue to monitor your plants regulary and act on time when pests start to multiply.
9. Apply pesticides and fungicides with caution - especially during flowering. Sprays may cause the delicate pistils to wilt on your cannabis plants and thereby seriously delay, or even prematurely stop, flowering. But we have also observed that some (bio)chemicals can trigger the development of male flowers or stamen, and this may be a hazard that is enhanced with feminised strains. Therefore, always test the products you purchase beforehand on a small selection of plants and work with products you can trust.