The global marijuana market was valued at a staggering “USD 10.60 Billion in 2018’. It is projected to get to USD 97.35 Billion by late 2026. With this ready market that threatens to break its breeches, growers are always on the lookout for better, faster, more effective ways of producing quality bud.
One such avenue is cloning cannabis plants. As futuristic as it may sound, this is actually a very simple concept. It normally involves cutting off a section of the “parent plant”, allowing it to develop roots and transplanting it. There are many advantages to cloning your cannabis plants, but the most significant one is that it is free!
What then are the uses of cannabis clones? Can cannabis clones be smoked? Is it safe? What are the effects?
Why Clone Cannabis Plants?
There are two main techniques one can use to reproduce cannabis: seeds and cloning.
Seed reproduction is sexual whereby pollination crosses the male and female cannabis plants resulting in new seeds, which can then be planted. When you buy quality cannabis seeds, each seed will comprise genetics from both the mother and the father plants. On germination, you will realize that your individual plants (phenotypes) will vary in both appearance and later on, in properties. This is because they are likely to express the genetics passed on by their parents in different manners. This difference is why you are not the exact replica of your siblings.
Cloning however is asexual and involves the cutting off of a part of the original plant, referred to as the “mother plant” and cultivating it into a whole new plant that is a replica of the original.
While naturally reproduced plants tend to have variations in phenotype and other characteristics, clones are a reproduction of the original plant to a tee. Cloning replicates features such as genetic profile, flavor, effects, grow time, yields, and cannabinoid profile of the mother plant.
Creating a clone ensures desired genes are passed on and you can continue enjoying your favorite pot for a long time, without variations.
What Is Smoking Clone Like?
By now you might be feeling like you have been transported into a scifi movie. Are clones viable? You might ask? Would smoking then cause mutations in you?
Clones are actually very stable and are an exact replica of the plant they were cloned from. And no, smoking clone will not cause you to grow an extra nose.
The experience and effects of smoking clone are exactly like what you would experience if you smoked the original bud. If the “mother bud” was luxurious, delicious, pungent and potent, that is the exact experience you will have smoking its clone.
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Most of the time, the end user doesn’t even get to know whether the quality bud they have purchased is from a germinated cannabis plant or is the yield of a cloned plant.
It is however notable that the experience of smoking a clone is likely to be a good one because a lot of time and care is taken in selecting only the best for reproduction. A poor variety is not very likely to be cloned. You should therefore be prepared to experience a top-notch cannabis experience if you smoke a clone.
What is Clone Smoking?
As we have described above, smoking cloned buds is the same as smoking the bud of fertilized or feminized cannabis.
However, there are other circumstances under which you might find yourself in a position to smoke clone. This include clone that is discarded during:
- The clones of unsuccessful phenotypes discarded in the earlier stages in the plant cycle.
- The clones that are discarded at maturity, when they happen not to be the best in the “group”. Most times, it is sometimes important to wait until the plant has fully grown and the bud has matured before you can test the qualities of the different phenotypes to decide which ones to keep. When this happens, you are left over with cloned buds which can be used instead of being disposed of.
During the cloning process, several phenotypes are cultivated and monitored in order to pick the ones that are most prolific. To enable this process, each of the phenotypes is cloned at different stages to ensure that if it happens to be the winning star, it can be reproduced from either the vegetative or flowering stage.
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At the end of “the race”, phenotypes that are not successful are “destroyed”, along with their clone. This can be the perfect opportunity to smoke the clone instead of letting it go to waste.
The clone that reaches full maturity is off course smoked like any other weed. However, the clone that does not reach maturity and is either written of at the vegetative or flowering phase can still be used in this manner:
- Cloned Cannabis plant stems: Though smoking them might be a waste of time and may induce a bout of coughing like you have not experienced in a while, you can use the leaves to make cannabutter, cannabis topicals and cannabis tea. It is important to note that you will require massive quantities to be able to make an effective impact.
- Cannabis cloned leaves. You would have to smoke the sugar leaves or fan leaves of the clone for you to get any effect. The sugar leaves are situated right next to the buds and often have a fine white coating. The fan leaves are bigger and situated further away but they too have significantly less, but adequate amounts of THC. You could also make hash and edibles using these leaves.
- Immature bud. Cannabis clones that have been “discarded” before maturity can still be harvested for the immature bud, It turns out it is quite the treat. Though they might not be as potent, they will still give you a good high.
- Roots. While smoking cloned cannabis roots might not get you anywhere, it happens juicing them might actually have a host full of benefits for you. They could apparently be a strong medicine for inflammation, to provide liver support, reduce pregnancy difficulties, boost brain health, and some people even claim that it kills cancer cells. So don’t smoke the root…juice it!
Choosing the Right Mother Plant to Clone From
As we mentioned earlier, cloning is basically about retaining and duplicating the best attributes of a strain. This requires that you are very selective about which phenotype to clone from.
Some characteristics you might look out for when selecting the cannabis plant to clone are:
- Pungent or Exotic or aromas
- Smooth, sweet, and bold flavors
- High resin production, and powerful potency
- Manageable heights (in case you are growing indoors), and robust growth
- Fast flowering time
- Resistance to pests, pathogens, and molds
- Large yields
What Are the Benefits of Cloning Cannabis Plants?
As cloning is rather quickly overtaking use of seeds, even feminized ones, let’s look at some reasons why growers might choose this method of reproduction:
Consistent growing – As we have explained in above sections, cloning the cannabis plants allows for the maintenance of the desired genetics in properties such as yield, growth rate, potency, flavor, taste, appearance, and so on.
Cost friendly – This is mostly because you do not have to purchase fresh seeds and in fact use the plants you already have. Also, many of the cloning techniques are actually very simple and inexpensive.
Convenient – Not only is it easy to learn the cloning process, it is also relatively not hard to implement. It is a straightforward process that can be learnt by even the most inexperienced of growers.
Speed – Depending on the stage the cut was taken off the mother plant, cloned cannabis plant can have a relatively fast turnover time.
Is Clonal Degradation a Myth?
Now that we know so much about cloned cannabis and the effects of smoking it, let’s find out whether the basic considerations of maintained genetics hold over generations.
Clonal degradation or what some people would call genetic drifting is a concept that is contested fiercely throughout the cannabis world.
While some argue that it is a myth, others insist that it is a real phenomenon.
Cannabis chat rooms are filled with arguments on the process of clonal decay with some pointing a finger at mutation and others cellular degradation to a point the clone becomes “cloned out”. It probably doesn’t help that cloning of cannabis plants has not been around long enough to bear out the actual effects of thorough decay.
However, for the sake of argument and things to look out for, let’s revisit the basics of “high school bio”.
The basic concept is that cloned cuttings will not change their “genetic imprint” as the clone is an exact replica genetically of its mother plant. To illustrate this further, the cellular age of a clone is also exactly the same as that of the mother plant when it was excised. This is to mean, a two-week-old clone taken off a two-and-a-half mother, is in actuality two-and-a-half months old.
Typically, genetic variation stems from sexual reproduction, which is seeds containing different genetic material.
Now that we have established that genetic content does not change in the case of cloning, what exactly would bring about changes?
One theory is that genetic mutations can occur in the course of growth. These would be very slight changes that would only be evident after several generations.
Another theory is that cannabis clones subjected to different environments end up growing and looking different. An under-fertilized clone that finds itself in an environment with low humidity will definitely do worse than a similar clone getting perfect humidity and fertilization at a different location.
Environment without doubt plays a vital role in how the cloned cannabis plant grows and reproduces.
Let’s talk about how the environment affects epigenetics…
The area of epigenetics sheds some light in the understanding of how cannabis clones tend to lose down generations. Epigenetics refers to the outside modifications, or stimuli, that can cause genes to turn on or off. It’s not the genetic code of the clone alters, rather the environmental factors modify genetic potential as well as expression of the clone.
To quote Russell Pace III, the President of the Cannabis Horticultural Association, “Epigenetic impacts on clone health over time are very significant. Without proper mineral nutrition and biological health, the vigor of a clone will diminish over time as it continually is replicated, thus reducing its viability,” .
Genes apparently load the gun, but ultimately, the environment “pulls the trigger”.
Having learnt that successive generations of weed clones are not genetically inferior in any way like we thought, let us discuss the environments that can affect them and alter their original “dispositions”.
Environmental Stressors That Affect Clones
The below are factors that might affect subsequent generations of weed clones in a significant manner:
- Appropriate Humidity
- Maintenance of appropriate light levels- inconsistency with the light cycles in the vital vegetative as well as the flowering cycles
- Soil nutrients
- Water – Under watering or overfeeding
- Incorrect soil pH
- Pesticides can be another stressor that can damage plants when misapplied or applied overzealously.
- Taproots- Clones lack tap roots, and therefore grow less robustly generally
- Cleanliness is critical to clone success. Introduction of bacteria or fungi during the cutting and transfer stage causes infections that produce duds (slow growing plants with low produce).
- Genetic mutations could also occur in subsequent generations of clones. Though still under research, there is some evidence to show that sporadic mutations within the DNA sequencing could occur. Therefore, one should expect slight variations across generations.
The world of cannabis cultivation is ever expanding and without a doubt as more studies are conducted, more and more effective techniques of cloning cannabis plants will be developed, which is music to the ears of all cannabis lovers. As cloning takes root, so does the number of clones that are thrown out in the process of vetting.
We hope we have educated you in the different ways you can smoke your clone so that you do not experience the complete loss of throwing great stuff out with the trash.
Cannabis growers tend to take clones either from mother plants (which are kept constantly in veg) or young vegetative plants that they’ll later switch to flower.
This article originally appeared on MyCannabis.com and has been reposted with permission.