Article 2-6 Using a Strain to Grow
by Eric Biksa
Indoor gardens are capable of generating conditions that are more favorable to growth than nature can provide. This is the ideal situation. However, some locations and equipment limitations might lead the grower to make do with a less than perfect environment.
When choosing a variety, consider the below as limitations. They may be overcome with genetics, equipment, nutrition, environment, and cultural practices.
TemperatureOften overlooked and greatly responsible for the rates of plant biochemical reactions, the temperature can be one of the most difficult to control. Playing a critical role in the rate of photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy to chemical energy. Temperature also regulates respiration, the process in which plants store energy. Plant transpiration, the release of water vapor via the leaves and stems is also a critical function regulated by temperature.
Too low a temperature restricts rates of reactions causing the plant to grow slowly, if at all. Too high a temperature, and the plant cannot keep up with the reactions, and must "shut down," ceasing photosynthesis, in order to prevent itself from exhaustion, leading it to wilt and die.
Plants with wider bladed, thicker leaves are often able to produce better in hotter environments and are less susceptible to water stress. However, these varieties are often more susceptible to foliar disease in high humidity. This is partly due to the fact that they have evolved in arid, dry conditions.
Plants native to, or having dominant genes favorable to higher temperatures are often among the best selections for most grow rooms. Keep in mind that many excellent varieties require cooler day and night temperatures, which must be provided for optimum results.
Varieties from more humid equatorial regions (often finer bladed) are less susceptible to foiliar disease in high humidity. Most equatorial plants are somewhat more challenging plants to grow, but are often worthwhile.
Look for a plant that combines gene pools from the above phenotypes if growing in a climate that varies from season to season.
LightThankfully, over the years this has become one of the easiest to control in indoor applications. However, light use efficiency is an important factor to the indoor grower, unless of course, you are off the grid. Many plants require critical photoperiods (ratio of light to dark hours in a 24 hour period) to trigger phases in the plant's life cycle. (growth, flowering, rejuvenation )
Days Until HarvestFaster isn't always better, but is definitely a consideration. Crops requiring longer growing times can be produced efficiently using staggered harvest and start dates on a rotation. Plants that take longer to complete their annual lifecycles yield greater, are higher in resins and oils, and often develop more complex tastes and aromas. However, if less time is required to complete a life cycle, the less time there has been time for insects and disease to reduce yields, desirable characteristics, and marketability. Not to mention hosts of other problems associated with cultivation.
Susceptibility to Pests and DiseaseWhen you speak with experienced growers, they can tell you which of the varieties they grow have had more problems with mites, root and foliar disease in the past than others. Some seed breeders may also be able to tell you. Today, many new varieties are bred and introduced into the market place as hybrids and di-hybrids. This is occurring at such a rapid rate, that many of these plants haven't been grown-out for several crops under a variety of environmental responses in order to determine their responses to different environmental conditions, which include susceptibility to insects and disease.
It is worthwhile to note that diseases, such as viruses, are often not passed from one seed generation to the next. This cannot be said for cloning, with the exception of some tissue cultures.
If a grower is able to find a plant with exceptional foliar/fruit characteristics, but susceptible to root disorders, the upper portion of the plant can be grafted onto a desirable rootstock. In fact, several varieties can be grafted onto the same rootstock.
Physical CharacteristicsLet's face it, some plants can just get to big for indoors. The physical appearance of your plant (phenotype) is dictated by environment and genetics (genotype). This includes height, leaf size, internodal spacing, growth pattern, floral structure, fruit characteristics, and vigor, just to name a few. In indoor applications a grower would like a single stem plant, closely spaced if growing areas are more compact. Larger, laxly branched plants are more desirable for larger spaces, as a single plant will fill a larger area, so less plants are required. It is worth noting that equal yields can be achieved more rapidly in a smaller space with intensive cropping. Keep in mind that growth patterns, size, shape, etc, can be manipulated through pruning, nutrition, environment, and plant growth regulators.
YieldsEveryone wants a bountiful yield, but focusing strictly on quantities harvested often means sacrificing other desirable characteristics. An overall balance of yield, flavor, aroma, and physical appearance all must be in harmony for the most marketable product. Different strains yield different quantities. Yield is mostly influenced by genetics followed by the growing environment. Without superior plant genes, you may not be able to realize the full potential of providing the ideal controlled environment.
Overall QualityGrow a variety that makes you happy. Different people look for different characteristics in the end product. If you grow commercially, find out what your market likes. Often what people look for in color, taste, and appearance varies from region to region or group to group. Overall quality might also include drying characteristics, shelf life, and reduced damage/spoiling in transport. The same strain grown in two different grow rooms may hardly resemble each other, as quality is also greatly influenced by environment.
The above ideas may help you narrow down your search for the strain that's right for you. It is certain that there are more considerations than those listed above. So if possible, take the time and consider your limitations and how certain strains will act in the environment that you will provide. There are many excellent strains available, and it is always best to obtain one from a trusted producer, who is willing to give you some background with regards to particulars.