Intelligent Breeding and DNA-Based Tools
In a recent episode of the Shaping Fire podcast, host Shango Los spoke with Seth Crawford, Ph.D. to discuss his blooming seed business, Oregon CBD. The published sociologist entered the industrial hemp market in 2015, partnering with his brother Eric.
Their goal was to disrupt the hemp extract market by breeding CBD-rich plants derived from medical cannabis plants, instead of starting with the low-cannabinoid, low-terpene hemp plants that were being used to make extracts. By using intelligent breeding techniques and innovative tools, such as the youPCR™ Plant Screening Platform, Crawford and OregonCBD were able to do just that.
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In the the interview, Crawford highlights the lack of scientific support for CBD isolate and the abundant evidence that points to the strength of the entourage effect. The diverse array of cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis creates a unique pharmacology that is far more effective than isolated compounds. Because they wanted to create a CBD-rich cultivar with a robust terpene profile, the Crawford brothers took a different approach to seed production. Rather than attempting to breed the CBDAS allele (CBDA Synthase, a protein that produces CBDA) into hemp plants, as was typical for the CBD isolate business, they instead bred out the THCAS allele (THCA Synthase, a protein that produces THCA) from medicinal cannabis lines. They did this by inbreeding multiple Type II plants (1:1 CBD:THC ratio) to get multiple genotypes:
- 25% Type I progeny (THC dominant)
- 50% Type II progeny
- 25% Type III progeny (CBD dominant with
Using the youPCR™ Plant Screening Platform, Crawford was able to identify plant genotypes of seedlings that were only days old. This enabled the OregonCBD team to get early feedback on their efforts and accelerate their breeding project.
In addition to these newly developed, rich chemotype plants, Oregon CBD made significant advances in the plants’ growth abilities. The breeders also introduced genes from high CBD, high-terpene autoflower and early flower lines. These innovations allow farmers to maximize the efficiency of their production space and grow time. Autoflower plants require no shift in the light cycle in order to begin flowering, instead beginning to flower once a critical size is reached. Early flower lines are “photoperiod sensitive”, allowing hyper-tailored harvest times.
Editor’s Note: Autoflower genes originate from Cannabis ruderalis, a relatively wild type of cannabis.
In the interview, Dr. Crawford went on to discuss various stories and quirks he encountered throughout his experiences. One thing he has observed is when female plants adopt a male phenotype (sometimes referred to as “herming”). He explained that, by employing Medicinal Genomics’ youPCR Gender Detection test, he confirmed that these plants lacked a Y chromosome, were therefore female; however, they exhibited male characteristics and produced pollen. Observed in approximately 1 in 4000 plants, the scientific dynamics of the phenomenon remain unclear.
Finally, Dr. Crawford discussed OregonCBD’s newest cultivar group, CBG-rich plants (Type IV). CBG (Cannabigerol) has been shown in preliminary research to have potent analgesic effects, without the psychoactivity of THC. The development of Type IV cultivars will allow for a far more specialized cannabinoid market, opening the door to immense breeding potentials to create highly varied chemoprofiles. Breeders who want to breed their own CBG-rich plants can identify them in the seedling stage by running screening tests that look for THCA and CBDA alleles. If neither is present, it’s a Type IV plant.
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About the Author
Liam Kane is a Research and Development Intern at Medicinal Genomics Corporation, and is currently enrolled at Northeastern University studying Neuroscience and Bioinformatics. In addition to cannabis genomics and pharmacology, Liam enjoys playing guitar, snowboarding, and listening to music.