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Blog: Minimizing Hermaphroditism in Feminized Cannabis Seed Production.

Published 12:09 AM EST, Mon September 25, 2023

  • Hermaphroditism is often the plant's response to a stressful environment.

  • Alphatype's QA/QC SOP aims to set the standard in the industry.

  • Alphatype does not propagate cannabis seeds with a high genetic predisposition to hermaphroditism.

Hermaphroditism and its Dual Reproductive Traits

Hermaphroditism in cannabis is a phenomenon where a plant displays both male and female reproductive organs. Typically seen in feminized cannabis seeds, understanding the genetic basis and triggers for this dual gender expression is important for breeders and cultivators aiming to avoid this issue in their crops.

Stress, whether due to environmental conditions or induced by external factors, can influence hermaphroditism in cannabis plants. Alphatype’s Project Alexandria explores how stressors like irregular light cycles, nutrient imbalances or temperature variations can trigger the development of both male and female traits, impinging the desired gender consistency in cannabis cultivation.

An occurring phenomenon in feminized seeds

If the processes and handling of feminized seeds are not conducted appropriately, this type of anomalies may occur more often than desired. For instance, inadequate reversal of the Y chromosome from the pollen donor plant during feminization may result in residual traces within the seeds, potentially causing male flowers in the progeny.

Moreover, the stressful experience the pollen donor plant is exposed to during the reversal process, which includes hormonal stress induced by exposure to chemicals (typically Silver Thiosulfate, a highly toxic chemical, and Gibberellic Acid, a more environmentally-friendly plant hormone), that may heighten the likelihood of hermaphroditism.

Best practices to minimize risk of hermaphroditism

Alphatype´s best practices include:

  • Use of gibberellic acid, an environmentally friendly and non-toxic plant hormone, in the reversion process.

  • Vetted genetics with low predisposition to this phenomenon.

  • Consistency in the management of temperature, humidity and light.

  • Use of adequate fertilizers for plant nutrition and development.

  • Regular inspection and elimination of pests and diseases.

  • Minimal exposure to stressful crop conditions.

Alphatype´s Hermaphroditism Quality Control

We enforce a 6-month “embargo” on every harvest in order to conduct a range of quality control tests before their market release.

For our hermaphroditism testing process we subject seeds to extremely stressful conditions, pushing temperature highs and lows to unusually steep thresholds (38°F and 104°F) throughout both the growth and flowering phases. To induce hydric stress, we administer cycles of excessive watering followed by intentional water withholding.

Additionally, we manipulate pH levels, constrain root development by cultivating the plants in small pots and limit substrate availability. Lastly, we deliberately subject the plants to inconsistent light cycles in both vegetative and flowering phases.

Our process includes testing 100 seeds per strain and batch produced and concludes with a statistical report. If hermaphroditism prevalence is greater than 1%, that strain/batch will be discarded and never released to the market.

Seeds are only cleared for market release if and when they complete the QAQC protocols successfully. If testing results yield unfavorable outcomes, which happens rarely, the entire batch is discarded.


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