Editors Note: This is a guest post.
What is cannabis pollen? Just another pollen. It serves the same purpose as for any other plant in the kingdom, fertilization of the female so she can produce seeds for breeding and fruits for your labor.
The Science Of Plants
Particularly cannabis plants, that is. Cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning there are male and female species. In this case females produce the buds and in some cases seeds. Males produce flowers and the pollen.
Most growers these days are only interested in female plants, but if you want to cross different strains and breed new combinations, you’ll need the pollen. And in fact, few companies sell pollen so it’s actually much more practical to just collect your own. For indoor growers, collecting it is the only option, since nature’s elements are not present to spread the pollen for them.
If you are going to jump on the honey wagon, there are some things to know first.
Pollen is found in the male plant, inside the seeds in a sac. The seeds must be fully mature and ready to harvest. To identify their readiness, examine the seeds which are heftier in shape and size; They should have a darker hue color, possibly even tiny tiger stripes. They are ready.
The traits of a strain are not always apparent on the male, only sac size and density. Select your breed by examining the female parent plant for traits such as yield and aroma.
The seeds are usually approaching maturity when the male plants start flowering. The male plants will not produce buds, which is why feminized seeds are so popular.
Pro tip: If you are storing seeds for later pollen collection, best to occasionally pull one out and give it a germination test to make sure the little babies are still active and viable.
About halfway through the flowering stage of a male plant, it’s time to collect your pollen.
Part 1: Collecting Pollen
When is your pollen ready to be collected? When you start seeing a yellow-y, powdery dust on the leaves below the male flowers. This is the pollen.
The ideal time to remove your pollen is when the sacs seem to be breaking apart. It should take about six weeks to start recognizing mature seeds which are primed for the popping.
Let the sacs dry for at least several days and up to a week. After drying, you can put the sacs in a resealable freezer bag. Give the bag a little shake and the pollen should tumble out of its shell with the slightest of ease.
If you are collecting pollen from flowers, snag a cluster of flowers and let them dry for a couple days in a storage container. Remove the pollen carefully, shaking it off the leaves over parchment paper or tin foil, or into a cup. Be sure there is no remaining plant matter mixed in with the pollen. This can contaminate it. A sifter is a helpful accessory for this part of the process.
Tools Of Your Trade
You can use some tools to collect your pollen, such as a dry herb scraping tool or a kief pollen sifter box and tumbler and a pollen press.
It can be a good idea to let the pollen dry out before storing it. Spread it out with a brush on parchment paper and let it sit at around 65-75 degrees in low lighting with moderate humidity for up to 48 hours.
For storage purposes, it is best to collect the pollen just when the sacs are popping open. This is when the pollen is at its most fruitful.
Now you are ready to store your pollen.
Part 2: Storing Your Pollen
You will store your pollen in an airtight container. This is the most important detail: airtight, airtight, airtight! An oxygen-deprived environment is essential.
Don’t forget to label your containers with dates and strain names. Especially if you are in the market for some phenotype testing!
If stored in a freezer, pollen can have a shelf life of up to a year! But keep in mind pollen is generally much less stable than seeds.
How To Store It
Whether refrigerator, room temperature or freezer, maintain your pollen at a steady temperature.
Do not defrost your pollen until it’s ready to use! If you are not using all of it, consider just transferring the amount you will use to another container and then returning the rest to the fridge or freezer before it defrosts.
The worst assault on your pollen comes from moisture, which can greatly reduce it’s viability.
There are a few methods to reduce moisture content. Coat the pollen with a dash of cooking flour. Another option is to add some uncooked rice to the container, which absorbs the moisture. Basically, carbs. Another trick is to use those little silica gel sachets, the kind you see in common packaging.
Using The Pollen
When you are ready to germinate a female or experiment with a new cross breed, let your pollen defrost and dry out before applying it to the plant. It is important to be focused and undisturbed during the process.
- Make sure you are in a wind free environment, so the pollen does not get blown around. It can get sticky!
- Use a light brush to apply the pollen to female plants.
- Pollinated plants should be segregated from non-pollinated plants during this process to guard against cross-pollination, which can produce hermaphroditic plants that produce seeds but no buds! This is the result of the female plants instinct to preserve the species when under stress from fear of death. Intense, right?
Maintain a properly safe environment to minimize risks to both yourself and the plant.
Tight clothing and latex gloves are recommended to avoid contact with the pollen. Other precautions include a face mask for respiratory protection and goggles for your eyes, especially if allergies are a risk. Store tools separately when you finish to further avoid cross-pollination.
Now get to it, the pollen is a-callin’!