How to Properly Germinate Wild Landrace Seeds

Unlike wild landrace seeds, most cannabis seeds commercially available are incredibly easy to germinate. Whether between two sheets of paper towel, or in soil, the seeds usually sprout in only a couple of days provided they are fresh and viable.
Then, why are their wild cousins  much more difficult to germinate?
In this short guide, we will find out why it is trickier to get landrace seeds to sprout and how you could dramatically increase your germination rate thanks to some very simple tips.

Hybrid Seeds VS Wild Landrace Seeds

Modern hybrid strains often have a high germination rate (Around 99%) because breeders have selected for that trait over the years. However, cannabis seeds do not germinate so easily in the wild.

The fact that Wild landrace seeds do not sprout as readily is actually a defense mechanism. These have a thicker coat aka testa that prevents quick germination. The seed coat refers to the hard covering that sheathes a seed.
By preventing any excess water from getting inside the seed, the coat helps prevent premature germination in the wild. It is especially useful when unseasonable winter warmth would cause the seeds to sprout though the seedlings wouldn’t stand a chance. As soon as the temperatures would go back to normal, the young sprouts would die.
In other words, the seed coat helps the plant embryo remain in a state of dormancy until conditions are right for the plant to thrive.

Weed Seedling

Wild Landrace Seeds Vs Cultivated Landrace Seeds

Farmers are breeders

Not all landrace seeds are hard to sprout. Seeds from Cultivated landraces AKA cultivars, almost always have an excellent germination rate. If the seeds aren’t wild, it means that farmers store their seeds during the winter and sow them in the spring. They repeated that same process for centuries. Because of that, there is no longer a need for a thick, waterproof coat that prevents germination. It would be an undesirable trait. That is why, cultivated landrace seeds from Rasol (India) or Chefchaouen (Morocco) have such a high germination rate.

Does That Mean My Wild Landrace Seeds Just Won't Sprout?

Bypassing The Defense Mechanism

No, not at all! Fortunately, there is a way to bypass that natural defense mechanism. If your wild landrace seeds are fresh and/or have been stored properly, then, they are just as viable as modern hybrid seeds. You just need to get the water to penetrate through the shell.

Not All Wild Seeds Are Created Equal

Even if your seeds come from a feral variety, you may not need to nick your beans so they can sprout. Indeed, many wild Landraces come from areas with a tropical climate where there is no winter.  Because these places enjoy warm to hot temperature year round, the seeds do not have a thick, waterproof coat preventing quick germination. Therefore, wild landraces from Africa, South India, South America or South East Asia should germinate very easily. If your seeds are wild and come from places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, North India and Nepal, then it may be important to use one of these 2 techniques below.

How To Nick The Seeds

These techniques consist of weakening the hard outer coating but without damaging the embryo inside.

Here are 2 simple methods that will allow water to get to the embryo and therefore trigger germination:

1)Cracking The Seeds.
It may seem scary to manually open the seed jacket but if you do it properly, it will not hurt the embryo.
To crack the seeds, you can either use mini pliers, tweezers or your own nails/fingers.
Place the seed just as you would place a nut in a nut cracker. It’s paramount to measure your strength and have a steady grip. Then steadily apply more pressure until the seed “pops”.

2)Sanding Down The Seeds.
If cracking the seeds is too tricky,you could gently file the seed coat with a thin metal file or rub it with sand paper. Then, soak them in a water cup with 27°C/80°F water.

Will It Damage My Seeds?

Both techniques are actually very easy to apply though if you’ve never done it before, it can feel a bit daunting at first.
It is important to mention that even wild seeds can germinate with the conventional paper towel method. However only 10 to 60% of these seeds usually sprout without needing any assistance. Therefore I suggest trying to germinate the seeds between 2 sheets of paper towel at first. Then, after 5 to 6 days, you could try these techniques on the seeds that didn’t “pop”.
That way, even if you damage a few seeds while learning these techniques, you will have nothing to regret since they weren’t going to germinate on their own anyway.

Right after doing that you’ll be surprised by how quickly the seeds germinate!

Increase your chances of success

In order to send a strong signal to the embryo so as to help trigger the germination process, it may be necessary to place your wild landrace seeds in a warm place. Once your beans have been nicked and placed between 2 sheets of paper towel in an airtight box, make sure the temperature is between 24°C and 27°C (or between 75‎°F and 80‎°F ). The warmth will help signal the end of winter.

Simple And Effective

These methods, although they may seem a bit rough, are very effective and will allow you to have germination rates almost as good as with modern hybrid seeds.
You may also try these techniques with old seeds which embryos don’t have the energy to break through the shell.