The Breeder / Seed Maker Golden Rules, by RiotSeeds

By: Matthew from RiotSeeds –

At Strainly we strongly believe in the concepts of inclusiveness and diversity, as they foster creativity, new possibilities and in the end… choices. When it comes to cannabis genetics, diversity of cultivars empowers patients, breeders and growers. In this article, Matthew from RiotSeeds will share his experience and insight about breeding cannabis. We believe it will be valuable to both accomplished and aspiring breeders, as well as to the entire community by hopefully increasing the chances of quality cultivars being introduced to the public. Thank you Matt!

The world of seed making, breeding, and pollen chucking is growing every single day with people new to the business. These aspiring breeders are finding themselves dropped into the middle of an arena that is filled with a great deal of unspoken rules, backdoor handshakes, constantly changing alliances (is this too Game Of Thronesy?). With everything in a constant state of change, it’s hard for people to figure out what rules always hold true as far as the permitted use of others’ genetics in their own work.  Here’s a few tips that may help you to navigate those waters while avoiding the pitfalls that bring unwanted attention and drama.

Paying dues isn’t something new to the world of business, in fact in many industries including the cannabis breeding world. You’ll also find it big in the tattoo world, plumbers, professional wrestling, and pirate ships. The world of breeding and seed companies isn’t a new thing despite the history not being covered in books and not being as accessible to those who have just arrived. Needless to say, paying dues is important. This is where you first find your foothold in the world of breeding, establishing your name, your style of breeding, as well as the knowledge you’ve learned up until this point. So with this in mind, the following are rules to keep you from stepping on others’ toes at the same time as allowing you to start your adventure and keep your focus on what is important – good, solid breeding.

Rule 1: Pull up a chair and shut your mouth

This may be the most often broken rule by newcomers. Everyone wants to talk about their expertise and the “facts” that they learn on instagram or, in the case of the older days, cannabis forums. While an even exchange is great between peers, there will be times when an old, learned, seasoned breeder offers some advice. Close your mouth and listen. You’d be surprised what you could learn if you hang out and just listen when an old schooler lets some of his knowledge and trade secrets out. It’s a chance to eat that proverbial Super Mario Brothers mushroom and power up. Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask questions when the time is right, in fact if a breeder doesn’t invite questions about breeding, that should make you question them as breeders. Breeding should be a passion and passionate people love talking about the science of breeding.

Rule 2: Breeding is IN FACT a science

There are plenty of terms being used when speaking about lines: from F1, F2, and F3 to IBL, Backcrossing, and Cubing. You should know the definitions of all of these terms and use them appropriately. Google is a VALUABLE resource, but so are old books – namely, “Marijuana Botany” by Robert C. Clarke. If this book isn’t in your arsenal and this is something you are passionate about, it needs to be immediately added. Mind you, it’s older, but the information therein about breeding will not change. These are your solid fundamentals.

A quick note as well – please learn how to express your genetic formulas. This means Female x male, and when speaking of polyhybrids, which most of todays lines are, you need to know when to use parentheses, why you’re using them, as well as brackets. When a person doesn’t understand how to do this it makes me immediately question their knowledge and passion.

Rule 3: Breeding has a purpose

One of the most common errors I see is the misuse of the term “Breeding.”  When it comes to cannabis, the most common consensus is that Breeding is a pairing of two or more lines with the purpose of selecting traits leading to an expected outcome. People often ask “How do you select your males?”  This seems like a perfectly normal question from people not in the breeding world, however to an experienced breeder the logic doesn’t quite fit what we do. The answer I always give is that it depends on the project and what the overall goal I’m trying to achieve is. As a breeder, your logic should be “I want the next line I make to have X,Y, and Z traits… what do I have in my strain arsenal to achieve this goal?”  If you’re crossing two lines just to see what happens, this isn’t breeding, but baby steps in the direction of breeding. With that said, not everyone has to be a breeder to make seeds. There are plenty of people hitting whole rooms of different females to one male because they happen to like the sound and or look of the male. That’s a perfectly valid and acceptable way to make seeds, however it isn’t breeding. I, myself, find a combination of the two methods to be the most successful way to run a seed company. Make the crosses people want and desire (hype strains) while working the line you love, over time in the background. I learned a long time ago that trying to stay relevant in the ever changing seed world isn’t easy. People want “new and shiny stuffs”, and it genuinely takes time to work lines and breed. So a measured dose of the two is highly advisable.

Rule 4: Permissions

Remember, the vast majority of strains is in the public domain, so in theory you can use almost any to start a breeding project. That said, go back to the intro of this article…

Permissions are bar none the question I get asked about the most. When is it okay to use another breeder’s work in your own creations?  A quick answer would be to say “breeding is like an art piece”. You’d never directly copy someone’s art while they’re still selling their painting. But I will go into a bit more detail to help with the more specific questions.

The main determiner in most of the following is whether you paid for the seeds. So please, keep that in mind. When using someone’s work, at no time should you ever take two lines from one breeder and cross them. If you decide it’s super necessary and want to do that anyway, you absolutely should have permission. It looks uncreative and you’ll never truly be able to call that your own creation. So why go down that route?  With all of the world of genetics to choose from, this shouldn’t be an issue anyway.

When using just one line from a single source in your cross (and this is assuming that both lines are from different breeders that you will be crossing), if you paid for that strain you are using, it is POLITE and looked upon favorably to ask the breeder for their permission, however it is not required. This is one of those times where it’s nice to reach out and say “Hey, I really enjoyed this line of yours – so much in fact that it would be an honor if you would give me your blessing in using it”, etc.  It’s not hard to do, you don’t have to go much out of your way, and in fact you can cut and paste what I just wrote and add in which line it is. Now no one has an excuse not to do this.  HOWEVER, and I must emphasize HOWEVER, if the breeder declines his blessing and you paid for the seeds and selected that cut, it is totally up to you to decide whether to proceed with the project. This is one of those times where a lot of old school breeders have different points of view about the proper way of doing things. But if you have paid for those seeds and did the selection, in my opinion, you are on firm ground to do what you wish, but expect some backlash if they said no.

When is it okay to “Fgen” (if you don’t know the term refer to Rule 2)?

There are only a few instances where it is okay to directly copy someone’s work. One instance is if it’s a very old line, the breeder is no longer participating in the seed sales world and the seeds aren’t currently being sold by the breeder.  Especially if the line is at risk of being lost. If there isn’t really anyone to reach out to and ask for permission, while the line is at risk of being lost or isn’t widely available, then this is a time when “Fgenning” is absolutely permissible. If it’s a clone only cut and no one has taken credit for its creation, then it’s acceptable to S1 that line. Now, if a breeder gives you direct permission to “Fgen” or “Self” any of their work, be smart and keep screenshots. People like to be fickle and change their mind, so it’s good to have that as a backup when the turd hits the punch bowl.

Rule 5: Respect, Respect, Respect

Let’s say you’ve used someone’s lines and have proper permissions. You finally got your first review in Skunk Magazine and get to write a blurb. Be sure to give props to the ones that came before you to make that strain possible. Be humble, kind, and honest when doing so. If there’s someone whose words you’ve read that have influenced your breeding techniques or directions and you have a chance to give them props – do it! None of us got here without the help, work, and words of someone else. Even if you don’t necessarily like the breeder whose work you used, it is NEVER okay to strip permission from them. Respecting and honoring those who paid their dues to get you to this point goes a LONG way with earning trust and making valuable relationships.

Rule 6: Come with THICK skin

Man… of all of the rules, this may be more appropriate at the top. If you don’t have thick skin in this business, you will not last and you will constantly be filled with stress. People can be very judgemental, ugly, and don’t like taking responsibility for their grows, and if you’re the one providing this crowd seeds, expect some unkind words.  There isn’t one person who sells seeds that hasn’t had someone herm their seeds. It’s bound to happen, people can be reckless with their grows and a lot of them have WAY TOO MUCH time on their hands. In this modern world of 2018, keyboard warriors rule the day. I learned the hard way that you can’t fight back every single time. You have to pick your battles, and a quick bit of advice – 99% of the time there is no problem that can’t be solved with a kind gesture of free seeds.


I hope this has helped some of you understand the fluid motion of this business and its intricacies with permissions, paying dues, and saving your sanity. While there are too many companies who are only in it for the greed, we DO need new blood with new ideas and new points of view when it comes to breeding.  If you’re passionate about this plant and have a firm understanding of breeding science, I implore you to make your way and don’t give up the first time it gets overwhelming. I, personally, LOVE seeing people work with my lines. It’s the kindest gesture to give one of my lines new life and take them on a new journey.

Best wishes to all who come on this adventure with us.

-Matthew Riot

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