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A Brief Introduction to Cannabis Tissue Culture and Micropropagation

This just in: Cloning is a thing of the past.

A tissue culture specimen.

Ah, tissue culture. One of the many new trend words in the cannabis-space. What is it, you ask? The definition states that tissue culture is: “the growth in an artificial medium of cells derived from living tissue.” In other words, you can basically regenerate an entire plant just off a single plant cell. Fascinating, right? It’s almost like cloning on steroids–but there are far more benefits.

We got the chance to speak with Justin, a lab technician at DSG Labs; and Chris, a breeder at Compound Genetics. They answered specific questions regarding the tissue culture process, and were nice enough to allow us to share this earthly wisdom with the world.

Consider this your go-to guide when you decide to take cloning to the next level.

Photo Courtesy: Mooney Moondog

High Times: Tell us a little about your company

Justin: Darkest Shade of Grey Labs, or DSG Labs for short, was created to provide a service to fellow cannabis growers with the same problems we kept coming across when bringing in new genetics. We had the need to start collecting genetics to exponentially grow our flower demand while keeping up with the ever-changing palate and demand of fellow cannabis users. In doing this, we needed to clean some of our genetics of pathogens to ensure a clean, healthy garden.

How did you get started in tissue culture?

Justin: We started researching how large agriculture did this and found that tissue culture was a possible solution. We bought a few home kits–which were really a waste of time–and decided to invest a large sum of money in building a proper lab. We tried hiring a few different people to help develop proper methods and found that most of their knowledge was severely lacking. We started reading a lot of published papers along with attending events like the Society for In-Vitro Biology, or SIVB for short. Through these events, we found highly educated individuals and really pieced together a great group of people we could barrage with questions.

Thousands of hours were spent doing R and D to develop the right environment and recipes. We were also able to further pursue a science-based genetics program with a few other like-minded individuals with extensive experience in the field who were coming up with the same roadblocks as us. We are now a team of people who are working in unison to create a science-based platform for genetic preservation, pathogen identification, pathogen eradication, micropropagation, genome sequencing, and marker-assisted breeding.

Photo Courtesy: Mooney Moondog

How did Compound Genetics get started?

Chris: Compound Genetics was created by a group of friends with a dream to preserve the essence of the cannabis they love, as well as seek out new expressions. We have been breeding, collecting, and cultivating rare genetics for years in an effort to bring the finest cannabis to the medical and recreational communities. Compound Genetics is best known for its work with Jet Fuel Gelato, the Menthol, and Legend Orange Apricot F2.

What is tissue culture?

Chris: Plant tissue culture is a collection of techniques used to maintain or grow plant cells, tissues, or organs under sterile conditions on a nutrient culture medium of known composition. Plant tissue culture is widely used to produce clones in a method known as micropropagation. Different techniques in plant tissue culture may offer certain advantages over traditional methods of propagation.

How did you get introduced to tissue culture?

Chris: Compound Genetics was introduced to tissue culture through extensive networking, and on the quest to create the greatest genetics possible utilizing solid scientific methods. Compound Genetics now has working relationships with several well-versed scientists to assist in the evolution of Compounds stable.

What’s the benefits of tissue culture for cannabis seeds?

Chris: The very direct benefit of tissue culture is the ability to clean your genetic library of any and all pathogens. This benefit can easily increase your vigor, yields, and potency. Tissue culture can also provide the ability to store your genetics in a safe, clean environment, long-term without much labor just in case anything in the cultivation environment may become contaminated.

To create seeds from tissue culture would mean that the entire life must be spent in a sterile environment. There is no specific definition and everyone has a different idea of what tissue culture seeds really mean. There are people who will create seeds from mother plants that have been “TC’d” however unless done in a growth chamber the possibility of a virus is still highly likely if the plants were ever contaminated before. Unfortunately, certain virus/viroids can be transferred into the seeds in the breeding process. At Compound Genetics, we are creating a platform in which we can ensure our seeds are free of detrimental virus’ and viroid’s through tissue culture.

How long does it take from plant cell to harvest?

Chris: It takes about a year to truly establish a clean genetic library and beyond that only a few months for the breeding process. However, you only usually need to clean your library once as long as you keep TC versions banked and propagated at all times.

Photo Courtesy: Mooney Moondog

What is required for tissue culture?

Chris: You must be on the OCD spectrum to be talented at it. All kidding aside, you must know how to identify and eradicate all pathogens. You must, then, have very good aseptic SOPs and practice them well. Tools of the craft are generally similar to that which you would see in a traditional hospital’s surgery room. Plant TC is just the same as performing surgery in a hospital. You need a clean room, clean airflow, sterile tools, and to ensure you are also as clean as can be or you can contaminate the cultures.

Is tissue culture the wave of the future?

Chris: It seems that tissue culture might be the future for cannabis plants, depending on what route you have in mind. Some growers now are looking for a way to keep a large library of genetics in a small place. Instead of taking up an entire room for mother plants, you can store all your genetics on a shelf. Some are even looking to pick up dirty clones affected by mold, pests, and/or virus’ to do some research and development. They want to show everyone that you can acquire dirty clones and clean them up so they no longer are affected by the mold, pest, and/or virus through tissue culture. You will then have the same genetics you started with, but a sterile version of that clone. Apparently, you can even run old seeds with a lower germination rate and increase the chance of germination.

Tissue culture has a nice variety of applications in cannabis. So to answer your question, I am sure. There’s no doubt in my mind that these methods will be adopted by many of the legal cannabis facilities around the world in the next few years. Who knows what else tissue culture would be able to offer by then?

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