It was illegal to grow hemp before the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill which means hemp genetics is an extremely young field; one that has only been worked on for four or five years. And, we are at the forefront of it.
Our goal is to identify seeds that are able to withstand Tennessee’s high humidity and high heat. Developing a strain whose flower is not so dense and compact could give us a plant that is more resistant to mildew and mold, for instance. Quality is the other key factor: We work to identify higher CBD percentage plants as well as hemp with higher levels of other beneficial cannabinoids. When the plants are more stable and contain a higher percentage of CBD, our hemp farmers can raise more successful crops and achieve greater revenues. Blühen is all about our farmers! We strive to enhance their production with this new crop that allows Tennessee farmers to make a good living.
The cannabis plant has male and female plants—only about 20% of all plants are like this. The male plant does not produce flowers, it produces pollen sacs. Farmers do not want male plants in their field—they pollinate and cause the females to produce seeds. But, they are exactly what we want in our in-house lab.
We isolate male plants so that the pollen cannot escape. We collect it and bring it into the flower room where the females are; there, we coat the white hairs on the flower with the pollen and that little branch will subsequently make seeds. And, voila—that is what we call an F1 hybrid. Next, we initiate a process called inbreeding—which, in this case, is a good thing. It is how we make the plants more stable.
We sprout the F1 seeds, take the best male and female, and do the same thing: pollinate them and collect the seeds; F2. The process repeats until the 5th or 6th generation, at which point, the hemp seeds should have stable genetics, look the same, and have the same profile.
Getting to that first generation takes about 70 days, then our testing begins and is repeated with every successive generation. What are we testing for?
To make sure the hemp is legal, meaning it is under 0.3% THC (if it is over that threshold it is considered marijuana and must be destroyed), and to assess the cannabinoid profiles. It is a process that requires a deep time investment. It can take a year, year-and-a-half, even two years to get to the 6th generation. Blühen is currently working with around 10 strains but we expect to have upwards of 15 to 20 soon—and we do not intend to stop there.