For millions of years, the cannabis plant evolved with Mother Nature acting as the head breeder. All of the world’s landrace genetics were shaped by the hand of natural selection, including luck, timing and climate variables. Humans, on the other hand, started tinkering with the cannabis plant only a few thousand years ago. Over the centuries, we have shaped and reshaped the plant as our needs, circumstances and technology have permitted. We bred the plant for fiber, for resin production, for medicine and for getting stoned, and we changed the plant dramatically in our pursuit of these desired traits.
When humans originally domesticated the cannabis plant, we produced hybrid versions of landrace genetics selected for flavor, potency and growth traits, among other factors. Without natural selection as the guiding hand, varieties of cannabis that would never have emerged from random evolution have become the dominant species in the modern cannabis gene pool.
You can compare landrace cannabis to wolves and high-end boutique bud to dogs. Dogs evolved from wolves and exist because of human intervention in natural selection. But most dog breeds wouldn’t survive a week in the wild—and even if they did, their ancient wolf genetics would re-emerge in a few dozen generations.
In the modern weed era, ever since the invention of high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, we have seen the main focus of breeding centered around potency, shorter flowering times, increased yields and physical traits that are valued by indoor growers. Most of these desired traits are the direct result of cultivating and breeding for the black market under prohibition. Recently, with the country now enjoying more liberalized cannabis laws in many areas, the emerging concentrates market has shifted the focus of breeders away from ever-increasing potency and toward flavors and terpene production. Growers who are no longer under the threat of prohibitionist laws aren’t as concerned with producing the most weight in the shortest possible time. Once again, a shift in what we want from this plant will create new varieties that would never have existed in nature.
Concentrates are now a staple of the stoner diet—and, for the most part, people are blasting flowers bred specifically for thriving under artificial lights and for smoking in flower form. There is a change in the works, however. Producers of concentrates want different things from the cannabis plant than the traditional pot smoker. Concentrate producers are developing new grow techniques, using new nutrient profiles and developing brand-new strains specifically with the goal of making concentrates.
Traits like less density in the bud structure, more terpene production and trichome coverage on the fan leaves are just a few examples of what concentrate producers desire. So, as the concentrate market continues to develop, we look forward to more progression in the cannabis gene pool, which will help the world produce more interesting and higher-quality concentrates.