Winning Strains

The Phenotype Phenomenon

Photo courtesy Emerald Mountain Photography

River Valley Remedies (RVR) teamed up with Benjamin Nadolny of Fox Hollow Flora for this month’s Q&A series. Fox Hollow Flora (FHF) is a premium producer providing cannabis to the Eugene medical dispensary community since 2013. The farm is currently “pheno-hunting” for new strains to bring to the Oregon cannabis market.

RVR: What is a phenotype?

FHF: Even though a pack of cannabis seeds is of the same strain, you will still get different expressions from each individual seed. These expressions are traits passed down through genetic lineage. Some traits include growth rate, cannabinoid content, aroma and fade colors. The most respected seed makers have spent years of thoughtful breeding to develop seeds that have a predictable outcome of specific expressions.

How is FHF searching for phenotypes currently?

We first determine what the market is eager for as trends and tastes evolve. We have a library of seeds from our favorite seed makers along with some of our in-house varieties, always have new genetics moving through our system, and put 3 to 4 new strains into phenotype hunting every couple months.

What do you look for when searching for a phenotype?

Always attractive is the plant with the most vigor. We don’t count out anything until we’ve had a chance to harvest every phenotype. We remove the males from the flowering stock. Throughout the flowering cycle we look for plants with well-rounded qualities and a wow factor. If a plant is small and weak, but has a huge flavor or highly effective medicinal properties it can win by the wow factor. We personally taste test the harvest of every phenotype, then send our favorites to a lab for more information.

Are you growing everything from a seed and then choosing a specific phenotype?

A lot of what we grow is from seeds we’ve pheno-hunted. If we didn’t pheno-hunt for it, we know who did. We are a quality over quantity producer – we’re hunting for things that are very special.

If you don’t find a “winner” do you kill of those genetics or do you keep the “best” one still?

We sometimes think we know the winner within the first few weeks, but are often pleasantly surprised to discover a different one emerges as a winner. There is a drying, curing and personal taste test that has to happen. Sometimes you don’t find any winners in a seed pack. It’s disappointing, but it does happen. And yes, they would all get killed off.

How long does it take to find a winning pheno? Do you have to grow it a few times to make sure the genetics are stable?

From a seed to the first harvest it takes over three months for the indoor grower. We take our favorite phenotypes and put them back in flower in different pot sizes and in different zones. It is not uncommon to discover genetic flaws on the third flowering round of a phenotype that was strong for the first harvest. The most common genetic flaw is the flowers become hermaphrodites and pollinate surrounding flowers. Cannabis plants are survivors and sometimes they will find a way to seed themselves to survive.

Do you want to address anything I didn’t ask about phenotypes that might be beneficial to anyone looking to grow from seed?

It takes a lot of patience to bring a new strain from seed to the high-end consumer market. Even if you find an amazing winner of a phenotype after the first test harvest and you want to share it with the best retailers and consumers in the state, it takes many months to prepare a stock of plants to put into flower. With multi-harvest testing and analysis it is not uncommon for it to take 9 months to go from seed to the open market.

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— By Natalie Raulin

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