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Pheno Hunting Cannabis

Cannabis production is a long and involved process. One of the most time-consuming but arguably most rewarding processes is pheno hunting. 

Responsible for isolating the most impressive strains of the 21st century, pheno hunting is an innovative process used to grow current weed strain availability. It’s also an effective way for companies to improve customer satisfaction, yield, and product quality. 

To learn more about cannabis pheno hunting and adopt it into your cannabis business model, read on. 

What Is Cannabis Pheno Hunting?

Pheno hunting is short for phenotype hunting. Phenotype refers to distinct physical characteristics of a weed strain, like color, potency, height, etc. 

To isolate good phenotypes, growers breed male and female cannabis plants. This produces seeds from the female plant, each with a different phenotype. 

From here, growers plant and maintain the crop until it has grown full size, where they’re then harvested and tested. Along the way, growers make note of all the phenotypes and isolate positive traits like high-potency resin trichomes. 

The more favorable the phenotype characteristics, the better.

The last stage is harvest. Growers test run the cannabis and determine which are worth cloning and adding to the weed strain index. 

What Exactly Is A Phenotype? 

In genetics, a phenotype is the characteristics in a living organism. The phenotype is how an organism looks or behaves because of its genes. In cannabis plants, the genetic code is determined by the genes of the mother and father plant. 

Common phenotyping characteristics include color, potency, and height. Noticeable traits include markers, like disease and environment tolerance, plant architecture, and yield– all critical markers for a company growing weed for profit. 

Why Is Phenotyping Important?

Pheno hunting is time-consuming. Isolating one favorable strain can take years of trial and error. So, why are growers so dedicated to pheno hunting? 

In a cannabis industry setting, pheno hunting is good for the culture and profits. 

By phenotyping cannabis plants and isolating good genes, growers can produce better strains that induce intense highs. 

They can also use phenotype hunting to find genes resistant to specific plant diseases and infections, or strong enough to withstand difficult growing conditions.

These phenotypes are then distributed and mass-produced, increasing the product pool and customer satisfaction. It can also lower long-term production costs by decreasing expenses incurred by weak genes and poor crops. 

How Does Pheno-Hunting Work?

Next, let’s explore how growers plant and hunt phenotypes throughout the stages of marijuana plant growth

Seed Selection 

The first step in cannabis pheno hunting is producing and organizing your seeds. Pheno hunting is an in-depth process. It involves multiple checkpoints and considerations. You must label and track all processes – including labeling the seeds before planting. 

Growing Conditions From Seed To Harvest 

After choosing and labeling your seeds, it’s time to plant them and start selecting the best genes. 


First, plant the seeds. If you’ve labeled your seeds correctly, you can check how your plants are growing and determine which ones aren’t worth producing. Remove any seeds that are struggling or show undesirable traits. 

Growing conditions are also critical during this period. Make sure your growing conditions are consistent and measurable. It’s the only way to measure cannabis genes with one another accurately.

Vegetative Stage 

During the vegetative stage, you’ll notice the first bits of plant growth. This period can already tell you a lot about the plant and its phenotype. 

Track which seeds sprouted first. Which one sprouted the strongest? How is their structure developing? Which one isn’t doing well? 

You can remove any weak seedlings or seedlings that project undesirable traits to decrease your observational pool. Having too many seeds to track can be overwhelming in pheno hunting, so narrow down your participants when possible.

Flowering Stage 

There’s a lot of work to do during the flowering stage. Plants start to express their phenotypes. Make note of all the changes, growth, trichomes, and how the plants are reacting to their environment. Remove any that have undesirable traits that you do not want. 

It’s also during this stage that you should identify the gender of your plants and remove the males. If you don’t remove the male plants, they’ll pollinate the females. Pollination negatively affects bud development and potency. 

So, check for the markers of a male plant. 

Common characteristics are: 

  • Plant ball growths on the branch nodes. Females also produce these balls, but they have white fluffs and hair on them. 
  • Thin growth. Male plants are long and thin, whereas female growth is shorter and stockier. Thick branches are key markers of a female plant. 
  • Male plants also produce pollen sacks that hang from the plant. 

Identify and cull all male plants before they can reproduce with the female plants. If you don’t want to waste the male crop, transport them to your breeding crop. 

Make sure you remove all male plants. Even one male is enough to pollinate a large portion of your crop. 

Harvest And Curing 

Once the crop is fully developed and the buds are heavy, harvest and cure the crop as you usually would. 

Your note-taking needs to continue here. Smoke the different buds and note their potency, how they make you feel, what type of high they produce, their aroma, etc. These are all considered phenotypes and you should continue the hunt for the best of the crop. 

Once you’ve found the buds you like, make a note of them and use the same seed type for future cultivation.


Cloning is great for pheno hunting because it creates genetically identical copies of a plant. So, if you’ve found phenotypes that are spectacular and you want to reproduce exact copies, use cloning to produce large batches of your favorite strain. 

Looking Out For Exceptional Traits

There are a lot of phenotypes to look for and we’ve mentioned a few above. But beyond physical attributes like height and plant structure, certain phenotypes are objectively more important for your crop yield and quality. 

Look out for and isolate exception phenotype traits to improve your profits and results. 


Trichomes are the small hairlike structure on cannabis buds and they have a significant effect on the high the bud produces. Pay special attention to the trichomes, their shape, their size, and their color. Compare them with your cannabis results to isolate exceptional trichrome features in future crops. 

THC And Terpenes 

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis and is responsible for making us high. Terpenes are flavonoids that affect the aroma and taste of cannabis. Both impact the potency of your crop. 

When talking about potency, many people only focus on the THC percentage in a product. But THC and terpenes work together in an effect called the entourage effect. Terpenes, which have no psychoactive properties, can affect how high people get and the type of high they experience.

Track the potency of different phenotypes and how they interact with plant terpenes. Isolate the ones that produce intense, full-body highs. 


Crop yield is important for any cannabis business owner. The better your yield, the higher your return on investment. To increase your yield, look for cannabis plants that produce large, heavy buds. Also, look for plants that are highly resistant to environmental factors and grow strong. 

Disease Resistance

Another phenotype that can affect your profits is disease resistance. One pathogen can wipe out an entire crop and decimate your profit margins. Finding the most disease-resistant strains and breeding them into your other strains is a must. 

Aroma And Flavor

Beyond the entourage effect, terpenes also affect how a bud tastes and smells. It doesn’t matter how good your bud is. If it’s noxious, nobody is going to want to smoke it. 

Keep track of phenotypes that produce a pleasant aroma and flavor. Also, note how the aroma affects the smoker’s moods. For more information on tracking these changes, use our guide on cannabis-derived terpenes and their effects


Producing high-quality cannabis is a long and arduous process. The most involved process is pheno hunting. Through pheno hunting, cultivators isolate favorable phenotypes like high potency, large bud growth, and disease resistance to create new strains and strengthen existing ones. 

As a grower, it’s important to incorporate pheno hunting in your business model. It provides a competitive edge, improves product quality, and increases customer satisfaction. 

Experience the best the cannabis industry has to offer with Embarc. Visit your nearest Embarc location and try the highest quality buds, concentrates, tinctures, edibles, and more – just for you.