Autoflowerit – Historia ja tulevaisuus

Autoflowers – History and future

Autoflower refers to a genetic trait in a hemp plant that causes it to flower regardless of the length of the day. But where do autoflowers come from, and where are they going?

Roots in Siberia

The autoflower gene originally evolved in Russia. Indeed, the autoflower trait has been an adaptation as strains spread from their native China and India to the more northerly corners of the world. The plant must have flowered earlier in the summer to allow the seeds to mature before the onset of winter.

It is uncertain whether the trait has evolved independently in wild strains or whether humans may have contributed to the spread of the mutation through plant selection.

Knowledge increases, nomenclature changes

As genetic research on hemp increases, so does our understanding. Originally, when the Russian plant scientist D.E. Janischevsky discovered wild hemp in Siberia in 1924, he assumed it was a species all its own because its growth habit was so different from that of its Indian relative.

Today, however, it is known that Cannabis ruderalis is not a separate species and is slowly being renamed. The new name is C. sativa sativa var. spontanea. "The 'sativa' in the name refers to cultivation, while the 'spontanea' refers to the fact that it is an escaped variety that now occurs in the wild - spontaneously. In Siberia, the wild hemp grows like a weed in ditch banks and asphalt strips.

The emergence of commercial autoflowers

On the commercial side, autoflowers are a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1980s, Nevil Schoenmakers, who founded the first commercial cannabis seed bank, travelled to areas along the Hungarian-Russian border, where he spotted and recorded wildflowers growing alongside the highways, blooming in mid-summer. According to Nevil, these hemps had accumulated almost no trichome covering - and this genetics therefore required a lot of work to produce varieties that would be suitable for Western consumers.

In Nevil's first experiments, he crossed these wild hop strains with the dwarf specimens of his most popular indoor seed strains. This gave rise to the classic variety Ruderalis Skunk and the first Mexican Rudy-type lines.

The usefulness of autoflower genes was also recognised in agriculture; in 1995, Jace Callaway started breeding Finola oilseed in Finland from seeds saved by the Russian Vavilov Institute, which he had received from David Watson (also known as Skunkman Samina and the original breeder of Skunk #1 and Original Haze), then President of the International Hemp Association (IHA).

Autoflowers were popularised in the early 2000s by the Canadian The Joint Doctor, with his now legendary Lowryder #1. At this point, autoflower varieties also began to be developed in the Nordic countries, with the creation of Stuporsonic in Sweden and Jeppis Girl in St Petersburg.

Wild Hemp (by Nevil Schoenmakers) on the cover of The Seed Bank catalogue in 1987.

Breeding autoflower varieties is a skill

Because autoflowering varieties always start flowering once they have reached a certain stage of growth, breeding them is a challenge. It is not possible to take cuttings from breeding individuals and therefore the dams cannot be stored. In addition, the autoflower trait is recessive. Both parents must therefore be carriers of the autoflower gene for the offspring to express the trait. In addition, most crosses require stabilisation up to the fourth generation to ensure that all individuals in the seed lot carry these genes.

Fresh factors and new winds

In 2010, Mephisto Genetics and Fast Buds started breeding a new generation of autoflowerers.

Mephisto Genetics was founded in 2014 by a British duo seeking a legally freer climate in Spain. They set about crossing the reputed cuttings they had been searching for with the best autoflower lines they had in their collections. These resulted in lines such as Sour Crack and Walter White, which, when further crossed into White Crack, produced the first autoflower plants with cannabinoid levels measured at over 27 percentage points. Many well-known breeders (such as Mr. Nice Seeds and Karma Genetics) have been so impressed with the results achieved by Mephisto that they have given their own successful varieties to work on autoflower crosses.

Fast Buds, founded in 2010 by friends from the US, is also based in Spain. Lafka's vision from the start has been to produce viable autoflower versions of the hottest elite genetics. In recent years, Lafka has also invested in the development of its own cheesecake and glue lines. The recently released autoflower version of the popular Strawberry Banana by Fast Buds promises to increase cannabinoid content to over 27 percentage points. It seems that each generation of breeding and crossing an existing autoflower line with a new photoperiodic mother beats previous concentration records, so we can see that there is still progress being made in autoflowers.

The most recent autoflowering lines are thought to be more than twenty generations removed from ruderal wildflowers. Even the Lowryder, found in the cross-breeding lines of most autoflowers, has very little left in the genome of the plant. This has not only increased concentrations, but has also changed the appearance of the plants closer to the typical dimensions of photoperid plants. As a result of this refinement, almost all current car varieties are no longer short-winged and no longer smell merely of hay.

In all cases, the autoflower genes are not derived from ruderal hemp. ACE Seeds, a Spanish company specialising in the collection and recording of groundnut varieties, has experimented with Northern Lights strains that flower independently of the photoperiod and crossed them with a Malawian groundnut strain. Malawi x Northern Lights Auto was released a couple of years ago and the male of this line has acted as a pollinator when Zamaldelica Auto was created. The anatomy of these plants, like the tropical plants, is long-necked and abundant, so the differences with the Lowryder strains are quite striking.

A 2018 article by cannabis scientific research expert Ernest Small predicted that short-statured autoflowers represent the inevitable future of commercial cultivation - both for oilseed production and cannabis grown for cannabinoids.
Back to blog