There’s a common saying among growers: “It starts with genetics.” And when you think about it, it’s true. Great genetics will perform relatively well, even if the environment isn’t perfect. And poor genetics will perform poorly, even in a perfect environment. Great genetics are crucial to grower success, but from a breeder’s perspective, what does that really mean? How can we use the latest science on genetics to breed exciting new strains? The answer to all this is rooted in the field of genomics.

In biology, genetics is the science of a handful of genes, while genomics is the science of all DNA within an organism, including all of its genes (not just one or two).  Think of genetics as a couple of apples in hand, and genomics as the entire orchard.  

The first human gene was sequenced in 1977, but it took 26 more years to sequence the first human genome. Human genomic data is used for everything from personalizing molecular medicine to understanding migration patterns of our ancestors thousands of years in the past.  While there are 20,000 genes present in humans, the latest research has put Cannabis at almost double – 36,000 genes.

Cannabis has benefited immensely from the current state of biotechnology – Chemdawg and Purple Kush were both sequenced in 2011. It’s obvious why Chemdawg was given this honor! 

The Secret Ingredient

Chemdawg4 in Dark Heart’s breeding facility.

Chemdawg is the origin of almost all sour, gassy and diesel smells in Cannabis.  If your weed has any of these three profiles, then odds are that Chemdawg is somewhere in the family tree.  Rumored to be a hybrid of Hindu Kush and Lemon Thai, Chemdawg is an honored ancestor of heavy hitters like Sour Diesel and OG Kush. Chemdawg is also a great-grandparent of the extremely popular Girl Scout Cookies strain, which has spawned countless strains (and phenos) like Key Lime Pie, Thin Mints, Sherbet, Wedding CakeRuntz, and more.  

The Legacy and Future of Breeding 

Now that Chemdawg’s genome has been sequenced, what’s next? To start, scientists can finally trace back Chemdawg’s lineage to old landraces, like a 23 and Me DNA kit, but for cannabis. Understanding Chemdawg’s legacy can help better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the strain, especially when breeding strains for cultivators.

Another is that Chemdawg’s unique iconic aroma and other traits aren’t easy to find in its offspring. While there are many smells and terpenes profiles that are similar to Chemdawg, they just aren’t the same as the original. Now, genetic markers can be created to ensure that the genes responsible for Chemdawg’s high-stacking and punchy diesel traits are passed onto the next generation. These genetic markers are also used in labs as a way to check that the important parts of the genome have been passed into the seedlings of Chemdawg crosses.

Purple Kush is another strain with a genome that has been sequenced.

By using these markers, breeding Chemdawg with other high performance strains can improve flowering time or disease resistance while keeping the best traits of the Chemdawg parent. Tracking markers can also speed up the breeding process by identifying the most promising seedlings during phenohunts.

Finally, by publishing cannabis genomes, the genetic information cannot be used for patents. This prevents Chemdawg from being locked up by IP restrictions by patent trolls or other predatory corporations that would try to keep these invaluable legacy strains out of the hands of the public.  

If you haven’t been lucky enough to grow Chemdawg herself, her legacy shines on! You can peep Chemdawg and appreciate her legacy through Dark Heart cuts like GG4, Larry’s Breath, Skywalker OG and in the diesel desserts like Ice Cream Cake, Gelato, and others.

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