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How To Collect Cannabis Pollen And Use It For Breeding

Cannabis pollen can be a scary thing for some growers. The idea of ​​growing a male and harvesting its pollen seems too risky for most growers. It only takes a small amount of pollen to create thousands of seeds and transform your bumper crop in a seeded disaster. However, if you want to create your own cannabis genetics, you will have to play with it at some point. There is, however, no reason to fear pollen – with the proper knowledge and handling, you can create your own varieties without worrying about sowing another crop.

Identify males

The first step is to identify the male plants. When you germinate seeds, it can take up to 2 months to determine their sex. Checking plants for their pre-blooms will help you determine their sex before they flower.

male pre-flowering cannabis plant with pollen buds appearing, next to a female pre-flowering cannabis plant with small buds and green hairs

Male preflowers have small, round pollen sacs and tend to have thick stems, while female preflowers grow more leaves and have a round calyx (buds) with hairs.
Photo credit: WikiLeaf

Once you have identified the males, they should be separated from the females and isolated in their own grow room or tent. Indeed, male preflowers can create pollen, even if the light cycle has not been altered to induce flowering. As soon as you see male preflowers, you risk catching unwanted pollen.

Once identified and isolated, the males can then be flowered and the pollen collected. A male plant will usually start releasing pollen after 3 weeks of flowering. From the 3rd to the 7th week, massive amounts of pollen are continuously produced from the opening anthers of the male flowers. You can collect this pollen by gently tapping the flowers on a sheet of parchment paper.

cannabis flowers next to a layer of cannabis pollen on a person's hand

Pollen begins to be released from male plants around week 3.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The pollen should have a mustard yellow appearance. If the pollen is too white, it may not be as potent. Be sure to remove any bits of leaves or pollen sacs that may have fallen onto the leaf. This is important because the moisture in the plant material will destroy the pollen during storage. Put simply, water kills pollen almost instantly.

Pollen collection technique

dry it

To ensure the pollen is dry and safe for storage, we need to dry it out a bit. Take a piece of porous, unwaxed paper (like printer paper) and fold it into an envelope. Make sure the sides are tight and the pollen won’t be able to escape. Pour the pollen cleaned from the parchment paper into the envelope, close it and place it in a dark, dry place. The paper will allow moisture to wick and escape.

Store pollen

After 1-2 days (longer for humid environments), the pollen should be dry and ready to store. Place the paper envelope in a mylar or plastic bag for extended storage. An extra step is to add silicon dioxide balls or rice to be absolutely sure that no moisture from outside reaches the pollen. It is not necessary, but we recommend it.

Dry pollen will have a very powdery and dusty texture. If the pollen has a lumpy, clumpy texture, you need to throw it away – that means moisture has contaminated it and its potency has been compromised.

Freeze Pollen

At this point, the pollen coat can be safely frozen for later use. Double it in a bag and throw it in the back of your freezer. without freezing, pollen shelf life will be, at best, from 8 months to a year. After that, her potency will rapidly decline, resulting in fewer seeds than she is able to produce. If frozen, the pollen can be used for up to about 2-3 years depending on the temperature it is stored at – the colder it is, the longer it takes. Keep in mind that once thawed, pollen must be used immediately and cannot be refrozen. It might be a good idea to make a few envelopes each containing a little pollen, as opposed to one large envelope containing all the pollen.

Thaw as needed

Once you’re ready to do the deed, thaw the desired amount of pollen. A quarter teaspoon of pollen is enough to completely cover up to 4-5 plants. The best time to pollinate females is around week 3-4, so they have plenty of time to finish their seeds. Take the plants that are going to be pollinated out of the flower room and into a secluded area. Set the mood, dim the lights, put on Marvin Gaye or Al Green.

Pollinate females

Take a small brush, dip it in the envelope and get enough to cover the tip of the brush. With a flicking motion, throw the pollen on all the buds of the female plant. A cloud of pollen will burst into the air with every move, so make sure you’re in a well-insulated area that doesn’t share air with other grow rooms.

a thin brush with a long red handle

Brushes are an easy way to sprinkle pollen on your female plants.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

It only takes about 4-6 hours for the pollen to germinate and fertilize the females, but it’s best to give the plants a full 24 hours before putting them back in the bloom room to maximize seed production.

Once they’re ready to come in, use a pump sprayer containing only plain water to mist the pollinated plants. The water will force the remaining pollen on these plants to germinate. Once dried, the plants will be ready to return to the flower room without the risk of accidentally pollinating other plants.

If at any time you feel like you’ve gotten pollen on you or have contaminated your clothes, use a water-filled pump sprayer to spray yourself. Once dry, you will be pollen-free. With a little knowledge and a careful touch, pollen is nothing to worry about.

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