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To answer that we’ll deep dive into what autoflower cannabis seeds are, the science behind how autoflowers work and the particular growing potential they have. Let’s compare the main difference between photoperiod strains and autoflower strains to understand the key benefits. Normally when growing cannabis you have to start the flowering process manually by reducing the amount of daylight the plant receives. When growing cannabis the light cycle is usually 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of dark. Then when its time for the cannabis to flower (which you have to time correctly) you reduce the light schedule to 12 hours of darkness. These cannabis strains are known as “photoperiods” which are the most common varieties of cannabis. Autoflowering cannabis completely eliminates this need for an alternating light schedule due to the special genetics they contain. Most autoflower strains can have their light schedule set to 18-20 hours of daylight and keep that schedule the entire time with no need to change it.
What are Autoflower Cannabis Seeds?
Autoflower cannabis seeds contain genetics from a species of cannabis called “cannabis ruderalis” which has evolved over thousands of years to be able to produce flowers without a reliable sunlight schedule. Instead of waiting on a reduction in sunlight to start the flowering process, this species of cannabis produces flowers automatically once they reach a certain age or period of growth. Part of this plant’s evolution was for it to conserve energy and it did so by reducing its height. So autoflower cannabis plants were often smaller and more compact compared to others.
Due to the smaller plant size and not storing photo energy for longer periods of time, autoflower cannabis plants only have so much energy to produce flowers with. So it was quite common for autoflowers to produce slightly lower yields compared to their counterparts. But this one cost of autoflower genetics came with all of the other benefits like faster growing speeds, less maintenance and less room for error when growing. As breeding cannabis with autoflower genetics progressed these plants improved over time and many autoflower strains today have just as much yield and THC as other cannabis strains.
Breeding Autoflower Cannabis Strains
Ruderalis plants themselves only contain around 3% THC which is closer to the THC levels of hemp at 0.3% THC. So when autoflower genetics are introduced to a photoperiod strain it used to be that THC levels would often drop by a few percentages. Autoflower strains today have had so much breeding that the THC levels are now comparable to other strains. I’ve seen many autoflower versions of strains with relatively the same levels of THC.
This is where breeding cannabis strains comes in. Whats incredible is that you can breed cannabis ruderalis with any other strain of cannabis and make it an autoflower. This is how we produce cannabis strains like Blue Dream Autoflower by crossing it with another autoflower strain that either has very similar characteristics or desired ones. More experienced growers can identify which photoperiod strains produce higher yields in shorter amounts of time and combine these with autoflowers to create strains that produce higher yields automatically over time. Growers or breeders can do the same thing with THC levels by combining them which very high THC strains in order to produce a strain with average to high THC that can now produce flowers automatically.
Can Autoflower Seeds be Male?
Most people think of cannabis as being either indica or sativa. But with the third type, cannabis ruderalis, this opens up an entirely new perspective and world of opportunities. Not just for the consumers but for growers, breeders and farmers For people growing cannabis this makes even more variants available because there are regular seeds and feminized seeds that can be autoflowers as well. Regular seeds are seeds that have not been ‘feminized’ so they can be either male or female plants and you wont really know until you grow them and male cannabis plants don’t produce seeds they produce pollen. With feminized seeds, you know you’re going to get female plants that produce flowers when you grow them 99% of the time. So if you’re looking to grow cannabis for harvesting flowers you can grow “autoflower feminized seeds” or if your breeding strains to have autoflower genetics you could grow “autoflower regular seeds” and separate the males once they become identifiable. With regular seeds theres a 50% chance you’ll get males or females.
Growing Autoflower Cannabis Seeds
Are autoflower cannabis seeds better? They can be in certain situations and climates. For example, if you’re growing cannabis hydroponically which already provides faster plant growth compared to growing cannabis in soil, you could speed up the process even faster by using autoflower cannabis seeds. This is because autoflower seeds grow slightly faster than photoperiod seeds. Autoflowers can be ready to harvest in 6-10 weeks compared to photoperiods which can be ready to harvest in 8-16 weeks depending on the particular strain. Indicas are generally ready to harvest sooner than sativas.
Another situation that is common to be using autoflowers is when using a grow box or grow tent. Many growers using this process like to automate as much as they can which helps eliminate any human error in the growing process. When you trigger the flowering process manually you have to do it at the right moment of the plants growth for the right amount of time and stick to that schedule without any variation. This leaves a lot of room for error since its a person and/or technology controlling the environment and not nature.
Autoflower cannabis helps solve this problem where you’re able to setup your growing and keep the same schedule throughout the growing process without having to do anything beyond feeding, trimming and overall care of the plant. Autoflowers can also be beneficial depending on the climate you live in. For example if you live in a climate that is dryer with warm summers, cold winters and is generally darker most of the year, an autoflower strain would be beneficial in those areas. This is the kind of environment that autoflowers evolved in which would provide the choice of growing indoors or outside.
While the ability to produce flowers automatically comes at the cost of lower THC levels and a smaller plant the trade off is often worth it given that many home cannabis growers are growing indoors and often in smaller spaces. Its commercial growing operations and some home owners that have the luxury of choosing where and how to grow their cannabis plants. So if your are more “hands on” and like to be more involved with the growing process a photoperiod strain will be more rewarding cannabis strain to grow. However, if you like the growing process to be more automated, live a busy lifestyle or are a beginner/first time grower, growing autoflower cannabis seeds will be just as rewarding and provide a better experience. Autoflowers are not going to replace photoperiod strains. Both have their own benefits but autoflowers are more of a specific use case as to where photoperiods are more general use. Autoflower seeds are better suited for people growing cannabis at home due to growing speeds, compact sizes, being easy to use and faster harvests.