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Learning About Cannabis Genetics and Breeders with Parea Biosciences

The terms genetics, breeders, and lineage are starting to make their way into the day-to-day conversations within the medical marijuana community. Breeding, genetic selection, and genetic lineages all play a vital role in the cultivation process to produce the medical marijuana products that patients see on dispensary shelves in Pennsylvania. So, who cares?... Well, you, the patient should. With the constant introduction of new strains and cultivars within the PA medical marijuana market, it is important, especially as a patient, to understand these terms, where genetics come from, and why patients should care about how genetics and breeding affects the products on the shelves at dispensaries.

Our goal is to shine a light on the world of cannabis genetics and the breeders who provide them. Here, KCRA speaks with Parea Biosciences about how this all impacts their garden and the product they produce for medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania.

Parea Biosciences
Photo: Strawberries & Cream from Parea
(Strawberry x Kookies & Cream F2) Bred by Exotic Genetix

Introduction into Cannabis Genetics and Breeders

What are Cannabis Genetics?

It is natural to hear the word ‘genetics’ and think of your own genetics that have been passed down to you from your parents. This is a good place to start the conversation around understanding the basics about how cannabis plants reproduce and the development of a cannabis plant's genetics.

Female plants are the desirable sex of the cannabis plant. They are what produce the buds that end up on the shelf. Male plants are generally only involved in the reproductive and breeding process for cannabis cultivation. Cannabis, like humans, has a diploid genome; meaning a male plant will be used to pollinate a female plant which allows for a genetic expression of both plants to show in the offspring plant.

The most important aspect to understand here is that cannabis genetics display the potential for each specific strain, directly affecting the yield, quality and effects of the plant. Each strain has a genotype which is the genetic code of the strain that carries with it all the genetic information that was passed down from its parents AND the possibilities of what the end plant can be once grown out. A well developed genotype from a reputable breeder allows for a better opportunity for the cultivator to produce higher quality products.

Cannabis Breeding
Photo: Lotus Blossom by Parea
(Roses x (Pure Thai x Face Off #4)) Bred by The Source Genetics
Who are Cannabis Breeders? What do they do? And Why does it Matter?

Simply explaining who cannabis breeders are and what they do does not heed justice to the expertise and artisanal approach that goes into the process of breeding cannabis. These individuals are too important to define with a single sentence. The cannabis plant can be stubborn and difficult to work with and breeding cannabis is never as simple as crossing one strain with another to get the best of both. Breeding takes years of knowledge and experience and is often a long and arduous process. Cannabis breeders have been the driving force of new and enhanced genetic expressions for decades. Breeders work to develop new and unique strains that end up being cultivated by licensed growers in legal and medicinal markets around the world. Breeders across the country directly affect the product on the shelf in your home state!

Cannabis breeding dates back to the 70's and historically has been centered around potency (THC levels) as the most desirable expression for cannabis genetics. While potency is still at the forefront of most cannabis breeding in today's market, breeders are beginning to focus on more abstract cannabinoids and exotic terpene profiles to bring their own unique genetic expressions to the market.

Cannabis breeding is crossing two cannabis strains, or cultivars, with the goal of getting an offspring with the most desirable traits from each parent. Genetics will be sourced from breeders in the form of plant seeds or clones. Reputable breeders will typically put their genetics through several rounds of breeding to stabilize and strengthen their genetic expressions, helping to lead to a more consistent end product. Meticulously selecting the desirable parents, and pheno-hunting different genetic variations of the same cultivar can be a painstaking process for breeders, often taking multiple generations of the same strain to develop and find the perfect version of the desired cultivar.

A vital aspect to cultivating is understanding that different seeds of the SAME strain can always possess slight variations in genetic characteristics. This is relatable to how two different children of the same parents can have different genetic traits; maybe one has blond hair, and the other child has brown hair. So, two different seeds of the same strain can be grown in the exact same environment and can be slightly different in their genetic expression, leading to two different end products. The best way to ensure that you have an exact genetic copy of a particular strain is to grow from a clone. Clones are living cuttings taken directly from a mother plant that ensure an exact genetic copy of the strain, eliminating the genetic variations that can come from using seeds to grow.

It is never an exact science which pays homage to the artisanal skill, effort, and energy growers devote to be able to take a seed or a clone and process them into high quality products for patients.

Cannabis Genetics
Photo: Howling Diablo by Parea
(Ghost OG x Fire 18) Bred by Midnight Roots
Is the Name of the Strain Important? Not All OGs are the Same...

Strain names often receive a lot of attention from patients. On the surface it can appear that there is no rhyme or reason to the names of strains, but this is often not the case. While some breeders may take an off the wall approach to dubbing their strains, a lot of breeders will choose names that line up with the plant's genetic expression or lineage. For example, Parea's Super Lemon Pupil was bred by Mass Medical Strains, and we refer to this genetic lineage as Super Lemon Haze crossed with Star Pupil. which you will usually see stylized as such: Super Lemon Haze x Star Pupil. In this example, if I know that I enjoy Super Lemon Haze then the Super Lemon Pupil may be a good option for me!

What is important to also understand is that you might see different growers cultivating strains that have the same name, but this doesn't always mean that the end product is the exact same. Two different growers both cultivating OG Kush, doesn't necessarily mean that the product will be the same. Meaning... Not all OGs are the same! This is where a grower's choice to tell you about where they source their genetics from, and cultivation methods come into play. While the seeds, clones or final product may share the same name, getting high-quality, consistent product from a garden begins with knowing and trusting the breeder that each cultivar is being sourced from. The seed market is unregulated, which allows anybody to name their strain whatever they want. On top of this, because of cannabis prohibition, the history of cannabis genetics is mostly anecdotal. This means growers working with reputable, trustworthy breeders is vital to ensuring the end product maintains genetic integrity and consistency.

As always, the more a grower can tell you about their product the better. This includes not only the genetic lineage but also the breeder that their genetics are sourced from.

KCRA's Conversation with Parea

Kyle Henderson - Director of Cultivation

Patrick Sprout - Assistant Director of Cultivation

Parea Pennsylvania

"Sourcing genetics from reputable breeders is a crucial first step in achieving high terpene results in cannabis, as the right genetics can lay the foundation for a plant's potential to express a full and diverse range of terpenes. Our team has cultivated strong relationships within the cannabis industry over the past two decades, providing us with a direct line to legacy, unique, and unreleased genetics, allowing us to bring high-quality cannabis to the people of Pennsylvania."

Kyle Henderson, Director of Cultivation at Parea
Q: Let's start off with why genetics matter to Parea and what you guys look for to work with breeders?

Patrick: I think of the genetics as basically the potential of the plant. There’s a lot that goes into it and of course who grows specific genetics is going to determine a lot as well. You can have all these different epigenetic traits that come out depending on the environment so it’s not all in the genetics, but I like to think of it as the potentiality. So, when I’m looking for genetics, I’m looking for breeders that I know and trust. There’s a lot of breeders out there that are making genetics that aren’t really stabilizing these things. It’s what they call pollen chucking, somebody just throws a lot of pollen into a room and then whatever seeds come out are what you get. You might end up with 20 different phenotypes of that strain, or every single seed might be slightly different. Really reputable breeders are backcrossing and trying to get these good traits back into it so it’s more reliable. So, a lot of it’s just reputation and people that I’ve worked with in the past and I know I can trust their stuff.

Kyle: We really look to work with the breeders who value honesty, transparency, and tradition. We prefer to build relationships with breeders that we can trust because when you have reputable breeders that have been doing it for a long time, they are starting to identify those dominant and recessive traits within the crosses they are working with. I think it was one of the New Millennium guys who said you can’t call it breeding until you have a goal. And in order to establish a goal, you need to know what you’re working with. They want to get the recessive trait of this insane amount of myrcene to lend itself to another strain while it still exhibits the high THC dominant trait that it inherited from the other parent strain.

PA Medical Marijuana

Q: How has Parea utilized their relationships and experience in the market to source high quality genetics?

Kyle: My journey with cannabis put me out into Colorado in 2010, which at the time was kind of the Wild West of medical cannabis. It wasn’t very heavily regulated and people kind of did whatever they wanted. There, I really started to get exposed to people who for decades were devoting themselves to breeding and to trying to create new experiences for people and a lot of them were taking serious risks for their entire adult lives while they did this. So, to me, the breeders were the personification of progress in legalized cannabis. During prohibition periods one of the main things, they were growing for would be yield and potency and now we have the ability to have such a more open perspective and have products tested for various cannabinoids and different terpene compositions. I often think of genetics as being created by artists who have dedicated their life to this pursuit.

Patrick: I totally relate to what you’re saying. When I first came into the industry, I thought of these guys like rock stars. It’s something they dedicated their lives to and risked being arrested and all the consequences, so you feel like a little kid getting to meet some of these people. But in my mind a really big part of sourcing genetics is about getting clones so that you have an exact genetic copy of something. That really comes down to kind of a network of growers. I still remember one of the first famous cuts I ever had, I got from my mentor, who got it from another person, and it was the original TK (Triangle Kush), which was like, oh my god this is amazing! You know, you’re growing this plant that’s been growing for over 20 years and it’s an exact genetic copy. It was a cutting from that original seed plant and that’s really cool.

But it’s like an underground network of people, it’s not something that’s advertised, it’s just people that you’ve met over the years, and you can trade cool cuts. But you have to trust somebody too, because there’s a lot of people that are out there that say “oh, I’ve got the original TK here,” but if you don’t have a verifiable story with other people then it can be difficult to always know for sure.

Kyle: Yes, and without any kind of tracking system for genetics all you really have in this industry is integrity and that comes over time. When I was competing in cannabis cup circuits in Colorado on the product side with a company I used to run called Incredibowl, we were able to win 19 High Times Cannabis Cups in three different countries, 10 different states. When you go back to the winner’s circle, it ends up being all the breeders. So that was my first introduction to these guys, and we started up a kind of industry club of breeders and dispensary owners that went for about five years. It would mostly just be industry people hanging out and talking about their genetics. Like reminiscing back on the IC Mag days when this guy shipped these cuts from Florida and then people would start putting together stories to realize that’s how that cut got to Colorado because we got it from someone who used to work at this place, and we crossed it back into this strain. So, I started to see all of these thoughts connect where even the breeders themselves didn’t know. But you started to find stories that made sense and connected, or even when somebody would sit there and be like, “oh, I don’t think I have the real cut of this.”

Thug Roze Strain
Photo: Thug Roze by Parea
(Roze Zkittlez x Lilac Diesel) Bred by Ethos Genetics
Q: Who are some breeders that Parea sources genetics from right now and any breeder whose genetics you guys are specifically excited about?

Patrick: I'm excited for our stuff with Mass Medical. I've been friends with him for a few years, but I'm especially excited for this Eighth Star that's coming up. We have it in flower now, and that came from my cut of Seven Stars that I pheno-hunted, which was like my favorite strain I've ever had. I love that strain and I sent him that cut, and he bred that with the Star Pupil and I'm just hoping that it comes out like the Seven Stars because I loved it, and I don't have that cut anymore so I'm excited for that one in particular.

Kyle: Mass Medical definitely comes to mind. We have a lot of upcoming stuff from them as well. And their product line, he's breeding stuff that he loves to work with. It is much more unique than what you would see in the regular commercial market. He has a phobia, or kind of a little bit of a deep-seated hatred towards Cookies genetics, which are so prevalent everywhere nowadays that it's really nice to see people breeding with things outside of that small sphere. We hear a lot of stories from patients like I consumed a lot in the 70’s or 80’s and now I'm consuming again, and I am looking for a little bit of nostalgia. Where can I get a Skunk or a Thai Stick or something like that? So hopefully this genetic variety will help people find some nostalgia or help people find something completely different than what's on the shelves in Pennsylvania right now.

But I also want to mention B.A. Botanicals because it's a relationship that is based on clones like Patrick was talking about. We used our most recent 30-day window in December, to bring in tried and true genetics from Oregon in terms of OG Kush, Fatso, Apples and Bananas, and Apple Fritter, among others, so that people can experience a cut that has been selected and grown out for a while in a very competitive, very established West Coast market. And I think we're excited to bring that sort of stuff that's way outside of what we've been propagating for Parea. We've always gone more towards the realm of the unique. It wasn't because I didn't think we could compete against other people. It was mostly because we didn't feel the need to put the same stuff in the market with such a fresh market. The patients deserve variety. And why say, oh, we're going do the same thing? Let’s do a strain just because it won a cup in Illinois, or we'll do this strain because it won a cup there. No, we want to try and bring different flavors, different aromas, maybe even different effects to patients.

Patrick: Yeah, and that's why we have been really focusing on more unique genetics, but I think bringing these tried-and-true ones out from the West Coast, people are going to realize how important genetics really are. All the people are like, oh, I've had all these OG Kush's and none of them are really the one. Well, here we go. We've got the real OG Kush. We sourced that out. We found somebody who actually has that. We got the real Apples and Bananas. Our Gelato 41 is the same one that Cookies bred with. So, things like that we are really excited about bringing to PA patients.

Medical Marijuana
Photo: Prayer Pupil by Parea
(Star Pupil x Prayer Tower Sativa) Bred by Mass Medical Strains
Q: What do you guys think are some misconceptions about breeding and cannabis genetics?

Patrick: One misconception with genetics, and I hear this a lot, you'll have like a blueberry crossed with an OG or something and somebody will be like, oh my God, it's going to be like blueberry gas. It's like, no, probably not. It's not necessarily always just the sum of the two parents. You know you've got your recessive traits, your dominant traits, and how that all mixes together. It's not going to just be blueberry gas as the end product. It could even be something that has none of the characteristics of either of the parents because of the breeder or the process.

Kyle: I always had enjoyed this site and if you scroll it kind of shows the complexity of genetic lineage. In terms of, it breaks down each cross to the process that went into it, and I love how they throw a lot of probabilities in there because it's an accumulation of data over time. It's not perfect anywhere, but it really shows the insane amount of complexity that goes into something simple, just like Rose Gold Runtz.

You think, oh, it's Apples and Bananas by White Runtz, but Apples and Bananas is Platinum Cookies and Grandaddy Purple and Blue Power by Gelati. And then it breaks down all of those as well too. So, it's way, way deeper than just Apples and Bananas crossed with White Runtz. But the only people who know how deep that goes are the breeders, and you have to take their word for it. So that's I think, why in the end their reputation is so important.

PA Medical Marijuana Growers

Q: So, how does all this affect patients, and why should patients care about genetics?

Kyle: I go back to when I was the location host for an event put on by Adam Dunn called the Adam Dunn Show Invitational (ADSI). It was an invite only breeder's competition where the talk wasn’t ever really about is this good or not it was more like “where’d that come from?” This gave a chance to tell the stories that were unfolding for decades under prohibition, where nobody wanted to keep a log of what happened because that could have put you in jail. But nowadays, the people who have lasted through that who do have the coinciding stories are the people that we like to work with because then we know truly what we're working with, and then we can educate properly and if you find something and you say, oh my gosh, I really loved OG Kush, but you did not actually have an OG Kush then you'll never easily find something that you can like again.

But if we can give as much information as possible, especially about the breeder and the lineage, then maybe it makes it easier to track down your next favorite thing. Say, oh, I love the Thug Roze. You may look to try another strain because it's also from Ethos Genetics and it has high terpinolene and I really like that pineapple smell. So, we're kind of using the Breeders as a tool for education as well. So, when you find something you love from Parea, our intention is to help facilitate the next step in finding the next best thing whether you’re searching by breeder, lineage, terpenes, or cannabinoid profile.

Learn more about Parea on our website here! And check out some of their upcoming drops below.


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