Why Genetic Testing Matters
For the hemp industry to continue to thrive and grow in the current landscape, it needs to be able to adapt and improve. The Farm Bill was the first major step in this process, but also set in place some of the first regulations hemp needs to adhere to remain classified as a crop. Whether or not more regulations are passed, hemp as a plant has untold amounts of untapped potential waiting to be discovered.
The big question is how all that potential can be reached while still adhering to the regulations set forth now and be able to adapt to new ones that come in the future. The answer sounds complex, and in a lot of ways is, but the value of it is certainly easy to understand. We’re talking, of course, about genetic testing.
What Is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing is on the cutting edge for breeders who want to develop unique and exceptional products for their customers, whether that be growers or directly to consumers. Understanding the genetics of the hemp plant, let alone being able to manipulate them intentionally, can result in new strains that contain higher levels of the specific compounds that are most desirable among consumers. No matter how skilled the farmer, or how ideal the growing conditions are, a plant with poor genes can never outperform one with superior genes.
Genetic testing is a process that allows us to see a plant’s genetic makeup, or genotype, which tells us just about everything we’d want to know about that plant’s potential. Once identified, breeders can then begin to selectively breed plants to pass on the traits they want and suppress or eliminate ones they don’t.
Genetic testing also certifies seeds for things like gender, where feminization is vital and lineage.
How Genetic Testing Benefits the Industry
As any hemp farmer is already aware, or certainly should be, the Farm Bill regulations state that hemp must contain a maximum limit of 0.3% THC to remain compliant. If any crop tests higher than that, in most cases it must be destroyed, costing the farmer potentially tens of thousands of dollars in time and resources. One of the aims of genetic testing is to remove that fear of a crop unexpectedly breaching that THC limit. Even plans without a functioning THCA gene still have the potential to produce THCA, possibly as a byproduct of other genes in the plant.
Through genetic breeding a plant’s entire genome can be sequenced to guide breeders toward creating strains that are far more reliable in falling below that compliant amount. This same system can also be used to increase hemp’s resistance to pathogens such as mildews and allergens. Because there are no approved pesticides for use on hemp plants available, having these strong traits are the best, and healthiest, way to keep your crop healthy.
What Else Can Genetic Testing Do?
There are so many things genetic testing can do that going through each in detail would take far too long for one post, but we wanted to at least give a taste of some of the other ways genetic testing could improve the industry across all sectors.
For breeders and vendors, it can determine relatives, clonal relationships, reduce variety and random factors from appearing in future generations. You will be able to identify and select certain physical structures to create sturdier, faster growing crops that produce a larger final harvest. On the legal side, it is vital for protecting your strains from things like false patent claims.
Reaping the Benefits of Genetic Testing
From the look if it, the benefits of genetic testing may seem to be weighted heavily towards breeders and vendors, and while that may be true in some respects, is far from the whole story. When breeders can use genetic testing to create not only unique and exclusive strains that only they can provide, the ones really reaping the benefits of that research and work are the farmers and consumers down the line.
The growers are given a bigger spread of choices in terms of which hemp plant they want to grow with the assurance that they will meet certain cannabinoid levels, including being THC compliant, as well as an all feminized crop that is strong, healthy, and reliable. Finally, the end consumer will experience a product that is more beneficial to their specific wants and needs than could ever be found without these levels of testing, breeding, and research.
Hemp started out as a fantastic plant with so many benefits, and genetic testing is the key to amplifying those potentials while keeping the industry safe from all regulations and law concerns that might threaten it.