Pheno-hunting is a way for professionals and home growers to select, grow, and harvest the best cannabis possible. At Rev, we’re always on the hunt for the best phenotypes — especially when it comes to our Mile 62 and Rev Reserve flower. We spoke with Gabriel Jones, our Flower Manager at Rev Clinics Grow, and Kavohn Hadjisoffi, our Genetics and Veg Department Manager, to learn more about our approach to pheno-hunting!
What is pheno-hunting?
Phenotypes describe the physical appearance, terpenes, flavonoids, esters, aldehydes, cannabinoids and other observable characteristics of a cultivar. When you’re cultivating a cannabis cultivar, you want to look or “hunt” for the desired phenotypes you’re looking for — the smell, color, and sensations a cannabis cultivar provides are all examples of phenotypes. At its core, pheno-hunting is the act of finding the specific phenotypes that best represent the cultivar you are hunting.
The phenotypes of a cultivar depend on its external environment (temperature, light, amount of room to grow) and how it’s cared for (feeding, watering, pruning). Even the handling of defoliation, the practice of systematically removing specific fan leaves, affects a cultivar’s phenotypes. Of course, phenotypes are just one aspect of a cannabis cultivar. Gabriel explains the three expressions of a cultivar:
- Phenotypic expression — These are the phenotypes we’ve been talking about! This includes how tall the plant grows, the shape of the buds, the color and smell of the plant, and any other perceivable qualities.
- Chemotypic expression — This covers the actual chemicals inside the plant, including THC and CBD. At Rev, we run a full range of lab tests from three local test labs in order to determine a cultivar’s chemotypic expression.
- Genotypic expression — This is the genetic makeup of the seed itself, determined by its mother and father plant.
You can think of a cannabis plant’s genotypic and chemotypic expressions as the plant’s potential, and the phenotypic expressions as the actual results of those potential qualities. It’s important to have enough seeds while pheno-hunting — this increases the chances of finding the few phenotypes that best represent the breeder’s original selection. As Gabriel says, “You gotta plant enough seeds to see if you hit that one-in-a-million plant.”
Rev’s approach to The Hunt
Pheno-hunting at Rev begins by taking out the male plants, since only female cannabis plants flower. “We send out the seedlings for genetic testing,” Gabriel explains, which makes it quick and easy to hunt through the male and female plants. Of course, genetic testing isn’t foolproof and “should always be backed by visual confirmation,” Kavohn adds.
After setting aside the existing females, we create mother plants to take clones from them. This allows for a few “runs” or grows of cultivars, says Gabriel, so Rev can see how they “phenotypically and chemotypically stand out amongst themselves.” Typically, Rev takes enough clones to fill a single bench in one of the flowering rooms — that’s “about 25 to 29 plants depending on the cultivar,” Kavohn tells us. “If you only do one plant at a time,” Gabriel explains, “you’re narrowing the scope of what phenotypes can appear.”
Once the plants are growing, it’s time to start the hunt for phenotypes! Each individual bench of cultivars is focused on one unique phenotype, which promotes proper plant care and aids the pheno-hunting process. As the plants “flower out,” to use Kavohn’s words, the Rev team takes diligent notes on the cultivar’s characteristics including growth patterns, flower development, trichome production, terpene profile, and overall health. Since the phenotypes of cultivars can change throughout the process, it’s important to keep track of your pheno-hunting every step of the way.
One of the most important moments during the pheno-hunting process is right before the flower is harvested. “This is where you can start to see the results of your hard work,” says Kavohn. During this time Rev, the research and development (RnD) team leads an extensive quality assurance check. This includes smelling the plant, breaking apart nugs, and checking for density and yield of the cultivars. A very important part of the pheno-hunt is, of course, conducting a smoke test — Rev pheno-hunters will go home, take notes on the phenotypes they pick up on, and compare notes afterwards.
Along with RnD, the cultivars are sent off for more lab tests to determine the qualities that can’t be determined externally like THC, TAC, and terpene percentages. Once the tests come back, Rev can start making decisions about which cultivars to keep, and which ones have to go. After the few remaining cultivars have been selected, “we’re likely to run a second round of pheno-hunting with larger numbers of each cultivar,” Kavohn shares.
Post-pheno hunting: What comes next?
After all that pheno-hunting is done, it’s time to bring the pheno-hunted cannabis to our customers! First, the Rev pheno-hunting team determines the category of each cannabis strain. We have two tiers of extra-premium quality cannabis flower at Rev that’s been pheno-hunted to perfection: Mile 62 and Rev Reserve.
- Mile 62 cannabis is not only masterfully pheno-hunted, but each strain is guaranteed to contain 28% THC or more! Lava Cake is a stellar Mile 62 strain and fan favorite that, in Gabriel’s words, “checks all the boxes” with its smooth, sweet flavors of berry, grape and chocolate cake.
- Rev Reserve cannabis are the stand-outs that don’t hit the 28% THC mark, but are still expertly pheno-hunted and boast exceptional phenotypes. Rev Reserve is “all about the smell and flavor with the loudest terpenes, esters, and flavonoids,” says Gabriel, who highlights the new Mickey Kush as a standout Rev Reserve strain. Mickey Kush has a more sour, earthy palate with the taste of lemon, limes, irish cream, and wildflower.
Pheno-hunting is an important part of how we grow our cannabis at Rev. With our expert pheno-hunters like Gabriel and Kavohn, we can ensure the very best cannabis is coming your way! Check out the Mile 62 website and the Rev Reserve products on our online menu to learn more about our premium pheno-hunted cannabis.