One of the terms you’ll frequently encounter in the world of cannabis cultivation and seed banks is autoflowering seeds. So, what exactly does that mean, why does it matter, what do they do, and why have they become so popular?
What are autoflowering seeds?
Autoflowering cannabis seeds are ones that will self-produce flowers regardless of the amount of sun (light) they are exposed to as they do not respond to the photoperiod, which is defined as “the period of daily illumination received by an organism.” This means that the plant will begin to flower once it reaches a certain age, which is, generally, after about two to four weeks of growth. Along with being compact, another advantageous trait of autoflowering seeds is that they do not require as much time to grow, whereas some are harvest-ready as early as eight weeks after sprouting!
The origins of autoflowering cannabis plants
While they started to appear on the market in the early 2000s, their history goes back much further than that. Autoflowering strains, whether crossbred with indica or sativa plants, all have cannabis ruderalis in their genetic make-up. Ruderalis, whose name comes from the Latin rudera, which is the plural of rudus meaning “rubble,” is a type of cannabis plant that is believed to have its roots dating back thousands of years ago in Central Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, including Russia. While it has been used in Russian and Mongolian shamanistic and medical traditions, for a very long time, Russian botanist Dmitrij Janischewsky is credited with being the first to scientifically classify it in 1924. Some botanists say that ruderalis is a subspecies of sativa, and others argue it to be its own species making it a much more closely-linked relative of indica and sativa. In its evolutionary timeline, cannabis ruderalis adapted to the cold short summers of Eastern and Central Europe where there are some areas that have “the midnight sun” by flowering more quickly and sooner until it eventually developed into an autoflowering plant.
Advantages of cultivating autoflowering seeds
While it should go without saying that autoflowers are an excellent option for novice growers to begin, expert cultivators are also fans of autoflowering seeds and plants for a myriad of reasons, some of which are listed and briefly explained below.
Convenience and ease: Because autoflowers are not constrained by the photoperiod, growers don’t have to maintain constant vigilance about a light schedule to encourage and sustain the plant’s flowering stages as they do for femininized photoperiod seeds and plants. They also require less nutrients aka fertilizer, and their fast turnaround from seed to being harvest-ready is a huge advantage.
Harvest and yield: Again because autoflowers mature so quickly, a cultivator can get multiple harvests in one season. In fact, due to their compact size and rapid growth, a grower can basically set things up to be in a continuous harvest cycle where plants of all stages are growing in the same space. This means that in theory, a cultivator could reap six (or, depending on the size of their growing operation–much more) harvests in the span of just one year.
Hardiness and resistance: Autoflowers, which are hardier plants due to their ruderalis genes, are not only more resistant to colder temperatures, but tend to have a greater resistance to a wide girth of diseases, mildew, pests, fungi, etc. They also are more forgiving if they are over-or under-fed.
Discrete microgrowers: Autoflowering cannabis plants don’t exceed 4 feet in height (1.2 meters), which makes them ideal for growing on balconies or in garden beds. In addition, their compact size makes it possible for cultivators to discreetly grow them if need be by either “camouflaging” them amongst other plants in the garden or easily hiding them from prying eyes.
Advantages of autoflowering strains for users
However, it’s not only cultivators who reap the benefits of using autoflowering seeds, both medical and recreational users also benefit from them.
Higher CBD: Autoflowering cannabis plants generally contain much higher levels of CBD, which does not contain any THC and therefore is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that has a wide array of medicinal benefits. The reason that autoflowers are higher in CBD is due to their ruderalis genetics, as ruderalis is known for containing higher quantities of CBD than indica or sativa plants.
Lower THC: While some users only want high THC content, others desire a strain that is milder and more evenly balanced effects, which is something that an autoflower can definitely offer. However, it is worth noting here that the notion that ALL autoflower strains have low THC is untrue. It was once the case back when autoflowers first appeared on today’s marijuana market, but the statement no longer holds true as breeders are consistently coming up with new autoflowering strains that can hold their own against photoperiod cannabis plants.
Effects: Autoflower strains offer a wide range of effects that many users seek, and there are numerous ones that offer some of the most relaxed, euphoric, energetic, and creative highs.
Autoflowering seeds have gotten a bad rap over the years due to how they first were when they appeared on the scene two decades ago. However, autoflowers of today have proven that that old reputation is outdated and undeserved. Their numerous advantages for growers, both novice and expert, and invaluable medicinal properties are exactly why they are rightly increasing in popularity. Some of the best, most popular, and even most-potent strains around are autoflowers. In fact, as a wrap-up to this piece here are just a few: Sour Diesel, Super Skunk, Northern Lights, Amnesia Haze, Jack Herer, and Gorilla Glue.
Written By Kim Thompson
Along with being an award-winning creative and literary writer, Kim works as a freelance copywriter, editor, and proofreader both domestically and internationally.
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