How To Preserve Landraces With Controlled Open-Pollination

It is becoming more and more important to preserve landraces. As some of you may know, indigenous cannabis varieties, also known as landraces, are quickly disappearing. The goal of this tutorial is to show how growers can help preserve these ancient varieties thanks to controlled open-pollination.
First, we will talk about why landraces are going extinct before explaining how to easily perform a controlled open-pollination.


Whether we like it or not, globalization is inevitable. Nowadays, every one with an internet connection can quickly and easily order seeds from many different Seedbanks and get them shipped pretty much everywhere in the world.
This is the number one reason why landraces are disappearing so rapidly in most places.
In places like Morocco, India or Cambodia, The pollen from these modern hybrids contaminate the local cultivars and causes the extinction of these ancient strains.
Eradication campaigns and habitat loss also play a part but it is not as significant. Contamination by foreign genetics is by far the number one cause of extinction.

Open pollinating allows to preserve landraces

Endangered Ganja Cultivar from South India.

Open Pollination Definition

Although globalization is relentless, there is a way to preserve these incredible local cultivars before it is too late. The answer is: “Open Pollination”. Even if it is possible to store seeds for up to 10 years, viability inevitably decreases after a while. That is why to preserve landraces, it is paramount to refresh the seed stocks at least every couple of years. An open-pollination is, as the name suggests, letting male plants freely pollinate female plants through naturally occurring means. Usually, in the cannabis world, breeders only use one male to pollinate a female plant. In order to preserve landraces, it’s important to use a large number of male plants so as to preserve genetic diversity. If we only use a small number of plants, the gene pool becomes narrower and narrower with each generation. Although it would make the strain more genetically stable, we would lose some of that precious genetic diversity. The more plants a grower uses for the open-pollination the more the genetic diversity of a strain can be preserved.

Optimizing The Space

Fortunately, the size of the plants doesn’t matter here! That is why it is possible to do an open pollination even in a relatively small space. To optimize your space when doing a preservation run, follow these 3 simple tips:

1) Cull out all the weak and mutated specimens at the seedling stage.
2) Start directly in 12/12 (Giving your plants 12 hours of light for 12 hours of darkness).
3) Use small containers. Generally, growing your plants in 1 liter (1/3 gallon) containers is optimal. You may need to transplant the females into bigger pots though you can keep the males into these small pots until the end.

Controlled Open-Pollination

You can even open pollinate without seeding your whole crop by doing a controlled open pollination.
To do so, move the males to another grow room or grow tent. Ideally, use a pollen filter to make sure that you are not spreading pollen everywhere. Then, collect the pollen from all these males, poor it into several test tubes, mix the pollen with a hair pin and then pollinate your chosen females.

Most landraces naturally have a high rate of hermaphrodites. However, by pollinating only a few target branches on each plant, you can easily spot the plants that have hermaphroditic tendencies and only keep the seeds from the pure females.
By doing so, you can lower the herm rate while preserving the genetic diversity of a cultivar.

At Khalifa Genetics, this is the exact technique we use in order to preserve landraces.

A Brighter Future For Landraces?

In a near future, when cannabis becomes legal worldwide, more and more people will look for diversity and uniqueness. Many cannabis aficionados will want to enjoy the flowers and or the hash that countries like Lebanon, Morocco or Malawi have been producing for hundreds of years. However, these countries will need their local landraces in order to produce their truly unique hash or ganja.

If each grower could preserve just one landrace strain, then these fascinating cultivars would still be around for centuries to come!

12 thoughts on “How To Preserve Landraces With Controlled Open-Pollination”

  1. Thanks for the helpful article. I hope to give it a try. But really I wonder how much a cultivar can maintain it’s uniqueness outside of it’s native habit

    1. Thank you Ben. The more plants you use for the preservation run, the more you can keep most of the gene pool alive. Although it is a relatively slow process, a cultivar can indeed change over time under a different growing environment. That’s why it’s important to mimic the native environment as much as possible. Ideally it will be possible to reintroduce these landraces once the farmers of the regions where they come from understand their value.

  2. I don’t agree with culling the weak and mutant because it further lessens diversity you never know those tiny and ugly plants might pass on some good things.
    I will some day soon grow my mexican landrace seeds to preserve them and clean them up from Hermie traits using a similar method as your controlled open pollination using small containers but vegging 3 or 4 weeks with 16 to 24 hours of light first because I feel 1212 they will stay too small.
    Thank you for your work on this keep it up we need more seed companies like yours I feel very privileged to be able to grow old world strains like yours this is really amazing what we are doing today because otherwise I would only have access to Mexico genetics.
    I am happy to be a part of this wonderful opportunity to save sample and breed different landrace strains from around the world.

    1. By culling the weak and mutant I mean only getting rid of those that are severely mutated or stunted. That’s right, the more plants your cull out, the more you risk lessening the genetic diversity, unless you are working with a very large population.

      Thank you for sharing!

    1. We will probably make some of our pollen available in a near future. I am very glad you like the info, Cheers Adam!

  3. Hi.
    I’ve watched your videos on youtube, they’re very well formulated & concise. NOTE: I’m exclusively an outdoor grower!

    If I want to preserve the genetics of some Afghan Kush for example, that means I have to grow loads of Afghan K seeds, and then isolate the male AK’s somehow ? Bearing in mind that I might want to do a few other strains like ghost train haze etc too and dont want them getting contaminated in the process. My worry is that I could potentially contaminate my whole garden outdoors with male A.K pollen, am I right? What can i do to prevent this? Would it be better to grow a few other A.Ks in pots away from my main garden and hope for a male plant?
    Also should I keep just one male afghan plant for pollen or several?( for a wider genetic pool).
    Can the seeds collected on one plant carry different phenotypes? If that makes sense

    I’ll be using your pain brush method for all this too

    Kind regards

    1. Hello Arjay,

      It is also possible to preserve a strain by doing preservation outdoors. That being said you have to make sure that there is no pollen contamination (Male pollen can travel dozens of miles/kilometers).
      If you want to preserve your Afghan Kush, don’t isolate a male but rather use as many males as possible for the pollination (And blend/mix their pollen together).

      If you don’t want to contaminate other plants, have your males at another location and do a controlled pollination using paper bags.

      The more male plants you use, the wider the gene pool remains.
      Yes of course, there are going to be different phenotypes.

      I hope this helps!
      BTW: Thanks for the support and I am glad you enjoyed our videos 🙂

      The Khalifa team,

  4. Thank you very much for this outstanding article! As normalization occurs preserving landraces and genetic diversity is one of the most important aspects of growing, if most growers understand that, we have a really good chance to revert this situation!
    Keep with the amazing work guys!

    1. Hi Suelo Vivo,

      I couldn’t agree more. Many of these cultivars have already disappeared but luckily more and more people are understanding the importance of preserving these old gems. Thank you for taking the time to comment.
      The Khalifa Team

  5. A little question. Last outdoor seasson i made my first crosses with about 20 clones of 5 diferent feminized Genetics with only one male plant, i did not used any method of hand polination and left the male in a 2 gallon pot 20ft away from the girls, is that considered open pollination regardless of the narrow genetic diversity?

    1. Hello Suelo Vivo,
      An open pollination is usually done using several males and females so as to imitate what happens in nature.
      That being said, if you used several females of different strains, you should have many different phenos to choose from when you grow out the offspring of these females.


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