Marijuana cultivation requires time, effort, and especially patience. Most strains need at least a couple of months to reach maturity and 2-4 months afterwards in order to flower.
However, a type of cannabis seed, known as an “autoflowering seed,” has flooded the market in the past few years. Autoflowering seeds are ready to harvest in 10 weeks or less, drastically cutting down on usual cultivation time.
Furthermore, flowering can only be induced in regular cannabis strains by a reduction in the number of hours of light received each day. In contrast, autoflowering cannabis will automatically flower when it reaches maturity.
Cannabis Ruderalis: Marijuana’s Sister Plant
Autoflowering seeds are usually the result of a cross between cannabis sativa or indica and a related plant known as cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis has low THC content, and so has never been used recreationally.
This species of cannabis, however, has the advantage of being autoflowering. When ruderalis is crossed with sativa and indica strains, the genetics allow for a plant that has recreational and medicinal value, a short growth time, and an automatic flowering cycle.
The Advantages of Autoflowering Seeds
There are three main advantages to growing an autoflowering marijuana strain. These are:
1) Very quick flowering time
As mentioned above, autoflowering strains have a significantly faster growth cycle than regular, or “photoperiod,” seeds. They can go from germination to harvest in just a little bit over two months.
2) Autoflowering strains stay small
This could be counted as a disadvantage for some growers, but there are many others who would rather keep their operation small because of spatial limits or other concerns, and autoflowering strains are perfect for this.
3) Autoflowering strains are hardy
Cannabis in general is a fairly hardy plant, but growers still struggle with pests and disease from time to time. Ruderalis’ genetics make autoflowering strains even more resistant to such environmental stress.
The Disadvantages of Autoflowering Seeds
Though the above advantages may seem appealing, autoflowering seeds also come with two important drawbacks:
1) A smaller yield
A smaller plant and quicker growth periods naturally make for smaller yield, but many growers and cannabis users tend to be of the opinion that more is better when it comes to marijuana.
2) Potentially lower THC levels
Growers and users also usually prefer higher THC levels in their product, but autoflowering strains tend to have lower THC levels than regular strains. However, expert growers have been able to increase these levels over the past several years, and will likely continue doing so.
Should You Grow an Autoflowering Strain?
Depending on your specific circumstances, autoflowering seeds could definitely be worth your time. They are a great choice for beginners who want to test their skills. They may also be ideal for medical marijuana patients who don’t require or who simply don’t want high THC levels, and who are only growing for personal use.
However, barring further advances in the potency and yield of autoflowering strains, experienced growers are likely to keep preferring photoperiod seeds.