Tissue culture is a form of propagation, which is the breeding of plants from its parent. Many farming, forestry, and horticulture specialists use tissue culture, as do many in the cannabis industry!
We spoke with two of our growers at Rev Facilities — Kavohn Hadjisoffi, Genetics and Veg Propagation manager, and Gabriel Jones, Flower Manager — about the rising use of tissue culture for cannabis propagation. Keep reading to discover how tissue culture works, its role in the cannabis production process, and why it’s important to Rev.
What is tissue culture? How is it different from traditional cannabis growing?
During the tissue culture process, small pieces of cannabis tissue called “cuttings” are placed into sterile, artificial growing environments. This allows the cutting to reliably produce new cannabis shoots that are exact genetic replicas as its mother plant. In short, tissue culture allows facilities to grow exact clones of cannabis plants without using traditional propagation methods.
When not using tissue culture, cannabis propagation is a quick yet unpredictable process. It takes two to three weeks for the rooting, transplant, and uptake of a cannabis plant, followed by roughly 8 to 12 additional weeks of pheno-hunting and R&D. This is because “every plant cycle has the potential to change its genes,” Gabriel explains, “and the result could be either a good or bad mutation.”
Traditional cannabis cultivation methods can also yield a host of issues external to the plant’s genetics. Pests, viruses, and other diseases can “easily be transferred from plant to plant, and then throughout entire facilities,” Kavohn warns. Plus, traditional cannabis growing takes up lots of space — one mother plant yields around 20 to 50 clones, and they need replacing every few months.
When using tissue culture, the growing process is much longer. “It’s a six month process to go from the cutting to a rooted plant that’s ready to go,” Kavohn explains. But with tissue culture, you can get “500 cuttings off a single mother plant,” he continues — all of which are exact replicas guaranteed to exhibit the same phenotypes, cannabinoids, and qualities of the mother cannabis strain.
By being able to harvest more reliable cuttings of mother plants, tissue culture allows you “consolidate your grow rooms” and keep “thousands of cuts in cold storage,” Gabriel says. This creates more growing space for flowering plants, and lets growers “backlog” reliable cannabis strains for later use.
Benefits of tissue culture for cannabis propagation
1. Save space while using less plant material
By allowing growers to produce more clones from a single mom, less plant material is needed when growing with tissue culture. As a result, more growing space becomes available. “Space is money in a grow facility,” Kavohn tells us. “The less space taken up by moms, the more space we can use for growing flower.”
2. Improve sustainability
Not only does tissue culture reduce the footprint of your facility and yield more growing space, but tissue culture also helps facilities reduce their carbon footprint. With less space required for cannabis propagation, facilities can be more environmentally efficient when it comes to the distribution of resources. Tissue culture also helps promote clean genetics, ensuring no pests or viruses spread from plant to plant.
3. Grow consistent, reliable cannabis
With tissue culture propagation, growers can prevent the natural genetic drift as mother plants grow older. This helps the flower “grow how it’s supposed to grow,” Gabriel explains, and allows growers to “forgo the genetic changes that occur in traditional growing cycles.” As a result, medical marijuana facilities can grow “reliable and consistent medicine for consumers,” Kavohn explains.
4. Maintain tested and well-loved strains
Along with preventing genetic drift in mother plants, tissue culture lets growers hold onto mother plants for long periods of time as “genetic stock,” says Kavohn. “You can keep thousands of cuts in cold storage,” Gabriel explains, and keep them safe until they’re ready to grow. This allows growers to grow specialty or legacy strains, experiment freely with breeding, and hold onto certain strains for special releases — much like “colors in a paint set,” Gabriel says, or Kavohn’s comparison to the McRib.
Rev’s journey towards tissue culture
Implementing tissue culture within a grow facility is a long, intensive process — one that Rev is just beginning. “We are looking to introduce a tissue culture lab at Rev,” Kavohn says, but this requires lots of time and planning. “It will take the better part of a year for our tissue culture lab to catch up with current Rev production,” he explains.
For now, Rev Clinics Grow has partnered with a tissue culture lab to understand how to best reap the benefits from using tissue culture for cannabis growing. “For now, we are transitioning these plants into our style of growing,” Kavohn explains, “with hopes in the near future of having our own tissue culture lab where we can follow the same process in-house.”
Along with saving space, promoting sustainability, and supporting more reliable cannabis products, we hope adopting tissue culture will help Rev Facilities become a premiere growing facility with special, long-lasting genetics for our customers. “Tissue culture is the future of cannabis growing,” Kavohn asserts. Gabriel adds: “We’re psyched!”
Learn more about the Rev Grow Facilities and our dedication to sustainability on the Know Your Farm page.