You may be a new grower or a veteran grower but who among us has not heard about autoflowering seeds especially in the USA. We have heard about its wonders and yet you may have been put off by the things you may have heard from past growers such as mediocre yields and very low potency of autoflowering seeds.
But since the last time you may have heard bad things about autoflowering marijuana, things have already changed a lot. Breeders have already developed strains of autoflowering plants that are highly potent and have great yields while retaining the desirable traits of being small and manageable and of course, quick harvest times. Through hybridization, autoflowering marijuana plants are becoming more and more desirable.
You may already have a system in place and have given up the thought of planting autoflowering seeds but you definitely need to have a second look at these plants and maybe give it a try as new information unfolds.
WHAT ARE AUTOFLOWERING CANNABIS PLANTS?
Marijuana plants go through four stages in its life cycle: seed germination stage, seedling stage, vegetative stage, and flowering stage.
Seed germination stage is when the seeds are planted and grows a basic system such as roots to collect nutrients from the soil and other parts in order to push itself above the soil that will develop into stems, leaves, and flowers later on. The seedling stage is when the plant becomes a literal small plant.
The vegetative stage is when the plant achieves some form of maturity. When the plant is in its vegetative state, it needs to be transferred to a bigger pot as its roots and even its leaves are rapidly growing in this stage. A mature cannabis plant will usually have 5-7 blades on each leaf. This stage lasts for about 3-16 weeks and requires a light cycle of 18 hours on a 24-hour day.
The plant enters the flowering stage when it develops sex organs for male and female plants in the form of flowers. Male plants produce pollen from pollen sacs that get scattered by air or insects and are received by the female flower in order to produce a bud that turns into a seed later on.
Auto-flowering marijuana plants are varieties that automatically proceed from vegetative state to flowering state naturally through the mere passage of time. On the other hand, regular strains come to the flowering state from the vegetative state due to changing light cycles, when light is being reduced.
The flowering stage is the final stage of the growth of cannabis plants. For a regular strain, this stage occurs naturally when the light cycle is shortened to about 12 hours of light. But for auto-flowering plants, this is no longer required. This stage lasts about 8-11 weeks. This is the stage when the resinous buds develop. It is the buds that are harvested for its THC or CBD content. In this stage, the plant will also show whether they are male or female.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF AUTOFLOWERING PLANTS
Here is our take of the common issues that are related to the autoflowering plants and the related developments in each to help you make up your mind on planting autoflower seeds.
HARVEST TIME: Auto-flowering strains grow faster than regular strains. This is due to the Ruderalis genes that are on auto-flowering plants. Some varieties are even reported to be ready for harvest in seven weeks. This could mean a few harvests in one season of planting regular plants. This is also an advantage for outdoor growers in cold climates where the summer days are short and cold that only last about two months, which is just enough time between the seed stage to the flowering stage.
Regular plants do have fast-growing varieties too so we cannot really say that auto-flowering strains are better in this department.
YIELD: Auto-flowering plants which are genetically related to Ruderalis family are smaller than the other Sativa or Indica dominant varieties. This is an advantage for the auto-flowering plants since smaller plants mean that you could have more plant in your limited indoor or greenhouse growing space. Being short also makes stealth growing possible where a grower may try and grow a single plant out of sight of the law where marijuana is illegal.
But the smaller size of auto-flowering marijuana plants could be a disadvantage too. Smaller plants yield fewer buds too as there is only enough space on each plant for buds to grow. So in this comparison, there may be a tie between the two since smaller yields per plant could be made up for by having more plants in your growing area.
But take the Magnum Buddha as an example, one plant of this variety could easily produce 100 grams of high-quality buds. Its buds are known to be resistant to rot. It is also a hardy plant and you could put your lights near it to increase yield and it could sustain it.
OPERATIONAL COST: Regular marijuana plants’ maturing from the vegetative state to the flowering stage is triggered by lowering the light cycle from 18 hours to 12 hours. But auto-flowering plants need the same 18-hour light cycles in their flowering stage. This means that lights should run longer on indoor spaces even during the flowering stage, thus pushing the electricity consumption in this stage.
But you could always grow your autoflower plants outdoors and you could have proper lights installed to maximize their growth. For auto-flowering cannabis plants, it is best to keep the lighting in an 18-hour cycle throughout their lifetimes. Some growers tried lighting it for 24 hours every day which produced good yields but the quality of those produced in 18-hour cycles are better.
Full-spectrum LED lights work best in any type of auto-flower marijuana plant. Higher lumens mean better yield for your crop too. If LED is too expensive for you, CFL of fluorescent lighting is a cheaper option.
Sunlight is still the best light for your auto-flower plants. Even if you live in an area with only 12 hours of sunlight on average, it is still more powerful lighting than any artificial lighting system that growers could produce and will still give you better yields. So, growing outdoors is a viable option for your plants especially if you are able to environmentally protect your plants in a greenhouse.
Auto-flower plants thrive in specific light spectrums. During their vegetative state, your plants must receive cooler light and in the flowering period, they must receive warmer lights. This is because auto-flower seeds germinate during spring and flower during summer and you could mimic this natural phenomenon in your indoor lights using LED lights with different color temperatures. Some CFL lights may also have this option to choose different colored lights.
Wrong lighting placement may also make your plant foxtail or have most of their buds grow in one place instead of being distributed along with the nodes. This is not necessarily bad but too much lighting that reaches the top of the plant, for example, may trigger your cannabis plant to foxtail which may lead to stem breakage thus laying waste to your buds.
POTENCY:Regular marijuana strains have different THC and CBD potencies and it is known that some contain as much as 21 percent of either ingredient. But since the auto-flowering marijuana plants are derived from the Ruderalis family of plants, they naturally contain lesser THC than the Sativa or Indica varieties even after breeding that made hybrids between the Ruderalis and other marijuana plants possible. Regular strains easily win this comparison unless they breed a high THC breed of auto-flowering marijuana strains.
Dinamed CBD Plus, for example, is the highest CBD yielding strain of autoflowering cannabis seeds to date this plant contains up to 20 percent CBD and less than 1 percent THC. Dinamed CBD Plus is reported by growers to be easier to grow due to its medium size and will give you a yield of 500 grams per square meter in just 55 days or 7 weeks. This plant is a really fast grower and is popular among those cultivators who supply medical marijuana. This variety is even reported to give a yield of 1000 grams per square meter outdoors.
QUALITY CONCERNS:Auto-flowering marijuana plants are known to require some plant growth regulators or PRGs in order to regulate its development. PRGs come as naturally-derived or chemically-derived. Chemically-derived PRGs are known to be carcinogenic but the naturally-derived ones are neutral and harmless according to the US-EPA.
Many growers are now aware of the danger of using these growth regulators and have abandoned them altogether. Many growers that using chemical growth regulators violates the sense of community among marijuana growers because they only wish to provide wholesome products for recreation and even medicine.
CLONING:Cloning has been thought to be impossible to clone before but it has been proven to be simply difficult but possible. This difficulty is due to the evolutionary difference of autoflowering plants from regular strains. If you clone a mature autoflower plant, the clone will also be mature and will result in small and underdeveloped clones with little yields. But even this may have further developments in the future.
So here is another take on the issue of whether you should start planting autoflowering seeds. Remember, we live in a fast-paced life nowadays that we old notions or information could have been easily replaced without us knowing. So try to be updated with the latest development even in a very old trade like marijuana cultivation.