How Can Genetics Help Hemp Breeders?

Plant genetics is the study of plant genes, genetic diversity and heritability. How plant traits are determined by their genes can be useful to help people breed towards specific targets more efficiently and effectively.

Genetics can affect anything from germination rate, cannabinoid variety and strains, plant structure, fiber content, and optimal harvest times. Developing hardy hemp varieties with stable and favorable genetics is very much a part of hemp cultivation.

The industry needs more groups developing better hemp varieties that speak to the hundreds if not thousands of industrial applications. LeafWorks assists those hemp breeding groups through supportive marker-assisted breeding services. In these services, we assay the genetic signature of a trait of interest and identify which plants are best to breed and propagate in a formal breeding program

Cannabis business owners and investors want to purchase hemp seeds that are proven to be top-notch quality and consistent. The 2018 Farm Bill does not address marijuana, but the federal regulatory environment now allows for federally legal hemp production.

Currently, hemp breeding companies can cultivate and, breed new varieties and formally register and protect their intellectual property with well-characterized plant descriptions and corresponding genetic sequencing to back up claims with the USPTO. In theory, patenting for protection sounds straightforward; but in reality, it’s fairly complex in this emerging market. Even when you know what your cultivar is, whether you can actually call it yours and prevent anyone else from growing it is complicated.

To patent a plant variety, you have to know exactly what you are patenting, which means you need to know the cultivar’s consistent features- how does the plant grow? What attribute do you care about that it uniquely produces? Are these features reproducible? Are they novel? Plants that have been in commerce for more than a year cannot be patented. You can’t buy a plant from someone else, call it yours and patent it. You have to demonstrate that you have bred that plant into a new variety in order to do so. That involves targeted hemp breeding. Hemp genetic testing can help here in the form of marker-assisted breeding. By focusing on the genetics of key attributes a breeder wants to change, genetic testing can help you narrow in on the genetic features you want all plants to have in order to get to a consistent result, and a new variety

LeafWorks currently offers cannabis and hemp genetics consulting including marker-assisted breeding services. Contact us to discuss your breeding needs and we can help you reach your goals quicker.