Breeding With Landraces

This term seems to be more and more popular within the cannabis community but what’s a landrace?
Landraces are cannabis varieties that have grown in a specific area for at least several hundreds of years and have adapted to the growing conditions of that specific area. Although landraces are disappearing they could be an asset to cannabis breeders. Let’s look at why breeding with landraces could be a game changer.

The Hippie Hashish Trail

In the late 1950’s westerners started travelling to countries like Lebanon, Afghanistan and Nepal looking for freedom, enlightenment and … quality hashish! These hippies started bringing back lots of landrace seeds with them to grow them out in their own countries. People started breeding with landraces, crossing some landraces with other landraces from different geographical areas. This gave birth to legendary hybrid strains such as Skunk#1 or Haze in the early 70’s.

The War On Drugs

Because of the war on drugs that begun under Richard Nixon in 1971, American pot growers started facing more and more eradication campaigns and harsher prison sentences. At the same time, eradication campaigns started throughout to world. They were often supported by the United States Government. Due to prohibition, smelly strains fell out of favor in most western countries. Growers had to become stealthier and a pungent weed smell was a dead giveaway. These people started selecting plants for their low odor and quick flowering time to lower the risks. Cultivation moved from outdoors to indoors. However, by selecting low odor, early maturing strains adapted to indoor setups, many genes disappeared from the gene pool.

Modern Hybrids

Today, most growers cultivate modern hybrid varieties. These are hybrids of hybrids of hybrids. Most of them originate from the landraces hippies brought back to America, Europe or Australia. However, this modern gene-pool is much narrower than the original landraces’. Although cannabis is becoming more legal and socially accepted, some aromas, smells, effects and medicinal properties have been lost through prohibition and modern breeding practices. For instance, by breeding for high THC percentages, many secondary cannabinoids disappeared from the gene pool. Cannabis breeding is tricky because there is almost always a trade off.

Medical Benefits

Unlike most modern hybrids, cannabis landraces can have balanced levels of therapeutic compounds. They can also have unusual secondary cannabinoids, terpenes and flavanoids.  Some central African landraces for instance, have a high THCV content. THCV is similar to THC but provides a different array of effects and medical benefits. In other wolds, landraces are very diverse genetically and can help discover new medicinal properties.

A Wide Range Of Aromas And Effects

Breeding with landraces isn’t just a gold mine for medical research, it also allows breeders to select for unique flavors and smells. By going back to the roots, the realm of possibilities opens up. There will be a wide array of traits to choose from and then stabilize. Most of the incredible pungent smells that disappeared from the gene-pool in western countries still exist in the areas where landraces still grow. Not only that but by going through large landrace populations, it is possible to find some totally unique tastes and effects. For instance, some old landraces with medium THC percentages are much more potent than modern hybrids with over 30% THC. That is because some secondary cannabinoids such as THCP have a much higher potency than THC. Not to mention the role that certain terpenes can play.

Kullu Valley Landrace Seeds

This pure Indian Landrace is more potent than most modern hybrids despite a THC level only around 12%

Is It Worth It?

Most landraces will not end up producing top-shelf buds. One has to find the outliers, the few remarkable specimens expressing outstanding particularities. And this is only the first step! After that, a long process of stabilization begins. However, landraces are becoming increasingly more popular. The legal cannabis market has caused some connoisseurs to look for more diversity. Although it is hard work, breeding with landraces could be very rewarding in this highly competitive market.