Before Tissue Culture entered into cannabis cultivation, getting new plants was done either by seeding or taking clone cuttings. Physically planting seeds is time-consuming, with a high degree of variability in output, and gives the grower very little control over the genetics of their crop. Using cuttings from a mother plant, allowed farmers to essentially clone strains and plants with preferred traits. Yet, even clones come with issues. As any farmer will tell you, clones can be prone to disease, pests, and infections. They still require time, space and substantial investment to get a plant to maturity.
Tissue culture is an improvement over both conventional cannabis propagation techniques, faster than seedlings, more disease resistant than clones, all while providing near complete control over the preferred genetics of a crop.
How Does Tissue Culture Work?
The great thing about tissue culture is that unlike the other methods, you can preserve a living plant, almost perpetually. Small pieces of plant tissue, even just a few cells, can be kept in a state of suspended animation practically identically.
All tissue cultures start life as a small cutting from another plant. The tissue sample is trimmed and then goes through a very important sterilization process. Once it is cleaned, the plant tissue goes in a dense nutrient bath which is typically an agar gel containing a carefully crafted nutrient, hormone and sugar mixture. Different hormone mixtures are then added which trigger various stages of development for the tiny plant specimen.
The culture can technically remain in a period of suspended animation, until a time when the grower wishes to work with the sample again. Through the introduction of new hormones and nutrient-rich growing solutions, will trigger growth, root development, and multiplication.
From one small tissue sample, a well-organized cultivator can potentially create hundreds of perfect clones, without any contamination from the mother.
The Benefits of Tissue Culture and the Drawbacks
The tissue culture process requires a clean room workplace, which then guarantees the new plants are free from pests, viruses, and disease, while at the same time remaining genetically identical to the original cutting. For those familiar with cloning, you’ll appreciate producing genetically identical plants without the constant battle with infectious and genetic mutations carried down from the mother.
Technically, in a direct side by side comparison, clone cuttings still reach maturity faster than tissue culture. A cutting from a mother plant would take roughly two weeks to reach planting stage, while tissue cultivation can take over a month to mature, but the quality of the plant is far superior.