Micropropagation is a technique used for growing large quantities of new plants from fewer “parent” plants, yielding clones with the same, predictable qualities. The cannabis industry, however, has been largely left out of this beneficial technique, because this species of plant is extremely difficult to micropropagate. Currently, the commercial cannabis industry relies on other propagation techniques, such as collecting seeds or taking carefully timed cuttings from stock “mother” plants. “Plants that come out of tissue culture also have the benefit of being disease-free, they frequently show enhanced vigor, and you can grow a lot more in less space,” says Lubell-Brand.
Plants in tissue culture depend on the grower to assume the role of nature to provide the right balance of nutrients and growth hormones in the culture media, to regulate temperature and light — everything. For some plants, micropropagation is easy to accomplish, where explants placed in the growing medium will multiply readily. For others, like cannabis, the process requires quite a bit of refining to ensure the production of a large number of healthy plants. “Cannabis does not really want to be in tissue culture. “
For growers to get started with the micropropagation technique, some equipment is needed, such as an autoclave and a laminar flow bench to ensure a sterile environment. However, for operations already using tissue culture techniques, the equipment is the same, says Lubell-Brand. The cultivars the researchers are working with are cannabidol cultivars lacking psychoactive amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol , but their micropropagation technique can be applied to THC-dominant cultivars as well. One day, maybe not so far in the future, the majority of cannabis may be micropropagated using tissue culture, though Lubell-Brand says there are still improvements to be made.