I had the pleasure of talking to Mike Haagen of Joker Genetics. Mike and I spoke for nearly one hour discussing cannabis seed genetics, strains, splicing, fennel hunting, genotypes, phenotypes and much more during our fireside chat. Mike is an expert in all things genetics related.
Joker Genetics: Cannabis Seed Genetics
Below the YouTube and Soundcloud is a Video Transcription:
Hello everybody. This is Shane from CheapHomeGrow interviewing Mike Haagen. He’s the owner of Joker Genetics. Mike, please introduce yourself.
Hey guys, I’m Mike Haagen I own Joker Genetics. I’ve been breeding for the last ten years and growing medical and recreational in the i502.
What is seed genetics?
Mike Haagen: Genetics is the study of hereditary and the variation of inherited characteristics. We apply those to cannabis seeds picking the plant DNA apart and study it.
What advice do you give to a novice grower buying his or her batch of cannabis seeds?
Mike Haagen: As a novice grower, my priorities would be stability and price. Pretty much as a newer grower you want to focus on plant health, that becomes more important.
Genetics only come into play if something is wrong with them. Your plant health is the greatest importance. I’d be looking for nothing complex, nothing crazy, something that’s been proven by a lot of other people.
What do you mean by proven?
Mike Haagen: Lots of people have grown the same exact strain by a breeder. It’s not something new. It’s not a new release, or anything that hasn’t been tested by anyone can assume.
What are some red flags a person should be aware of when looking at specific seeds?
Mike Haagen: Big red flags would be looking at how the breeders are growing.
- There grow environment.
- How many crosses do they necessarily release?
- Do they test their gear before they release it?
Breeders have multiple testers working for them, and they’ll grow their strains and provide grow reports so that the customers can see those grow reports and then base their opinions off of multiple reports. They know what they’re getting themselves into.
When you say “gear” what exactly does that mean?
Mike Haagen: Gear is just pretty much slang for a breeders genetics their gear meaning their work.
What makes a good cannabis seed?
Mike Haagen: All opinions aside, a plant that grows well without any major issues.
If you’re going to sell me something blueberry, it’s going to be some kind of blueberry when I get it. Nothing that will “herm out.”
When I say “herm out” a plant that will get hermaphroditic traits along during flower which will not only ruin that plants harvest but destroy all the plants around it by seeding them out pollinating them.
Don’t you want seeds that will turn into male and females pretty much?
Mike Haagen: Yeah, a lot of people think finding seeds in their weed is a good thing and that they can grow them out. Those seeds are created through stress and weren’t meant to be there.
There’s a chance that growers that produced that had a herm in their room and it’s slightly pollinated so when people grow those seeds out, also referred to as “bag seeds.”
It’s a lot higher chance of having herms in your room, and that’s why people buy seeds because the amount of investment of all the soil, light, time, your energy being put into this, your investment is multiple thousands of dollars. To put that type of time and effort into something unproven and unknown is a very high risk.
How does one evaluate a seed company and their strains?
Mike Haagen: I like to work with people that do the same style of growing generally when I purchase seeds. I grow a lot of indoors, so I don’t want to be buying from someone that’s an outdoor breeder necessarily.
Plants grown outdoors, they are a lot more stable being outside, the sun is a lot more efficient, and it makes it so that the plants are a lot more stable being outside so some genetics outside will herm out indoors but won’t herm outside.
I prefer breeders that indoor are bread and open pollination.
When I say open pollination, I prefer them to have the male within the females instead of them getting the pollen and storing and then applying the pollen at a later date.
I believe pollen degrades over time and the potency goes down.
There are multiple ways of breeding too so it depends if you’re going to buy seeds, look into the breeder, they all have an online presence I would look at how they do it compared to others.
How do you tell if a breeder is breeding bad seeds?
Mike Haagen: Well generally in this industry you get called out pretty quickly.
Even the talented breeders get called out regularly online. It’s based on your reputation. You get roasted if you put out a bad line of seeds.
In your experience which company has the best genetics?
Mike Haagen: Everybody has personal preferences. A lot of breeders sometimes will work towards different motivations.
For example, I do a lot of breeding for recreational companies, so flower time is my biggest priority is getting it under 60 days or so.
As far as newer breeders, using the term breeding, I use that loosely because nowadays it seems like most people aren’t breeding versus hybridizing other breeders gear.
One of the few people that are still true breeding nowadays, I would say, second-generation genetics which is DJ Shorts son. He does pretty good work, and I’ve been following him for a little bit.
Is he on Instagram?
Mike Haagen: He’s under second generation genetics.
In your experience what are some of the hardest seeds to find?
Mike Haagen: Authentic landrace strains. Strains that grow naturally in habitats that are not anywhere near us.
In Colombia, your Indicas and Sativas are even difficult to find. It’s tough finding new authentic strains nowadays because with shipping a lot of these countries have the gear that we have.
The seed banks ship it from there. The gear has gotten pretty common and spread worldwide, so it’s pretty tough finding authentic landrace strains and not only that but to go into one of your questions. There are also generally really hard to grow, so people avoid that.
What are some of the hardest seeds to grow and what are some of the easiest seeds to grow?
Mike Haagen: In my opinion, the hardest seeds to grow would be anything that has sativa landrace in it just due to the amount of flower time involved. You can be looking at three to five months flower time which is a crazy amount of time and compared to the easiest seeds which would be like some of your hybrids, which basically will finish them 60 to 70 days.
They have been bread using common nutrients, so they’re used to those nutrients while things like landrace strains aren’t as evolved with the nutrient cycles that are tied to it. They can get stressed out from different phs; they become accustomed to the ph in their natural soil, so they’re not as hybridized as other things.
How much should a good seed cost?
Mike Haagen: For a ten pack of seeds, I would say standard gear from a decent breeder would be anywhere from 50 to 100 dollars. Higher end gear that’s rarer you getting in the 100 the 300 dollar range.
What type of seeds would you get for that?
Mike Haagen: It’s a combination of the traits and how rare they are. Some breeders only release only 100 packs or less. Some strains are more sought. If I hunt for a across for two to five years and hunt through thousands and thousands of seeds to find that one special cross and then I breed with it, I’m not going to sell the offspring of those seeds hundred dollars just due to the amount of investment involved in it.
A lot of it comes down to the amount of work the breeder put into it. A lot of those guys can sell 50 dollar packs because they’re just got tents and tents in their house, and they’re just crossing other people’s gear steadily and quickly and pumping them out. Which is nothing wrong with that but there’s no time involved so they can sell at a cheaper rate.
So they can mass produce seed?
Mike Haagen: Yes.
There’s nothing unique about it?
Mike Haagen: They’re still doing progress. They’re creating new crosses from other crosses; there is some uniqueness to it. They’re able to provide seeds to the more common customer that can’t necessarily spend lots of money on seed.
They bring people into it, to the point where they learn to appreciate true breeding and people that are finding and making those crosses, to begin with, that then get hybridized.
What part of the world do the best seeds come from?
Mike Haagen: Just do due to the amount of legalization that happened over the last five years America has been pumping out a lot of seeds.
Europe was at one point the epicenter or at least Amsterdam for a while, but during the last few years, I feel like most of the high-end breeders are coming to America.
Where in America? West Coast / East Coast?
Mike Haagen: California, Colorado, Washington, and Michigan those states dominate the rest of the country for the most part.
The breeders can fennel hunt on a much larger scale legally. It’s a competitive edge. Almost no other states can hunt for thousands and thousands of crosses to breed with legally.
It comes down to pure numbers.
What do you mean by fennel hunt?
Mike Haagen: When you have seeds the more that you pop of them you’re looking at different types phenos the different traits, and you get to see them on a larger scale, and the more numbers you run, the better chance you have of finding that special one. It’s a numbers game
What are feminized cannabis seeds?
Mike Haagen: Feminised cannabis seeds are generally manipulated through stress to put off female seed. It can be done with colloidal silver being sprayed on female plants, they grow balls of pollen and then use that pollen to pollinate another female of the same strain, and all the seeds will be feminized.
Another way is called radurization. If you take a female past her lifecycle, she’ll start throwing sacks of pollen and can use that pollen also, or you can cover a branch. This old-school guy told me by covering a branch around week five the darkness on that branch will cause seeds to happen through stress.
I’m not a fan of any of that stuff because usually breeding through stress tactics adds hermaphroditic traits to the strain.
It’s just not good to breed with that stuff. As a customer, if you grow it out, it’s nice because you know it’ll be a female every single time, but you can’t breed with that. You can, but it’s not advised so your going to get yourself into trouble later on with stress issues.
With enough stress, you can have both male and female traits?
Mike Haagen: Yes, your offspring will be a lot more likely for it. Feminised seeds are good to grow out if you just want leaf but if you ever plan on breeding or crossing it down the road, I would do it with a regular version of the strain that you desire.
What are autoflowering cannabis seeds?
Mike Haagen: Autos are former ruderalis they switch from veg to flour based on the time and size versus a light schedule.
Regular seeds when you switch from your standard light cycle to 12 – 12 is when you initiate flower autos will do it naturally.
What’s the difference between cannabis seed and clones?
Mike Haagen: Seeds have taproots. Taproots are pretty big with plants because it’s their root system. If you ripped a rootzone apart, you’d notice the taproot is like a giant thick stout root that goes down the center of it.
From my experience seeds have a better resistant to bugs and powdery mildew and they just all around are better than clones. Honestly, the only reason why people use clones is that it’s quicker when you know what the sex is and it’s a way to replicate something you’ve already found.
The original when it comes to breeding I only breed with taproots. I feel your plant potency is a lot higher when you breed with things from seed versus clones.
Why do you think that is?
Mike Haagen: I think that the taproot provides much more health. It’s like a resistance. It’s hard to explain. Every time I’ve had plants the seeds are better, the clones of the seeds when you cut the clones of the seeds you hope to get as close as possible to what the seed is. The clones are a slight knock off of your seeds.
So the cannabis seed itself is the “Real McCoy” so-to-speak?
Mike Haagen: The original, yeah. Every time you copy it, it gets a little distorted each time.
Not to get too off topic but that’s how genetic degradation happens. You’ll see strains that people have cloned of over an extended period and the epigenetics which is the environmental change on the genetics from the grower, the habitat they provided will change the genetics over time then if they breed with that then that epigenetic stays in its offspring.
You’re breeder is creating new variations of that strain.
If Joe Schmoe breeds with Blue Dream then I breed with Blue Dream, and someone else breeds with Blue Dream, and someone else breeds with Blue Dream. Overtime all the Blue Dreams will be different, not to a considerable extent but it will be noticeably different.
Because their all being copied from a “copy machine.” Would you say that’s correct?
Mike Haagen: Yeah, it’s like dogs. If you breed dogs and if you train your dog before you breed it that intelligence level will increase. You can manipulate the strains for sure.
What is the legality of cannabis seeds in America right now?
Mike Haagen: With cannabis seeds it’s a touchy subject, it’s kind of weird. I’ve been allowed to sell seeds at open events, but the whole time it felt like I wasn’t supposed to be doing it.
States like Washington, California, Oregon, and Colorado the states the seeds are legal in, it’s not as big of a deal but when you get to a state may be like Texas or Pennsylvania. I feel like it is definitely illegal and they’ll charge you with a 0.1 of cannabis.
I’ve heard stories of that being done before. I’m sure you can fight it in court and win it but far as I’m concerned going through that whole headache and process alone is enough stress and it’s not worth it.
I’ve been told that the second the seed is germinated is when it becomes illegal. It comes down to your county, and what your county wants to do and how far your county wants to go and usually it always comes down to the fewer people know, the better.
It’s this weird gray area with seeds right now. I’ve been pulled over with lots of seeds thousands, thousands of seeds on me and containers of seeds so I apparently had the intent to sell and they didn’t touch it, that’s Seattle police.
I’m sure it changes almost up to which cop pulls you over and how much he wants to be a dickhead. When it comes to laws, ask around your country because it changes very often and seeds is definitely a gray area.
I know a lot of the major seed banks some of them still sell t-shirts that come with seeds because of the legality of it online.
They sell t-shirts, and then you get seeds? How does that work?
Mike Haagen: Each T-shirt will have a name like Tangerine Dream, and you’re buying the seeds. You’re technically buying the shirt for the legal reasons; they probably run the receipt as just a shirt. It’s a known thing the seeds come with it. I’ve heard of it being done with the mugs before, hoodies, hats.
It’s a standard way to try to get over the fact that you’re selling something specifically. It goes back to the donation; you’re donating the seeds that come with that type of purchase online.
I don’t know how strong it will hold up in court, but I know people do it.
What’s a genotype and phenotype?
Mike Haagen: A genotype is a set of genes it carries. Such as green crack that it’s genes.
Phenotype will be its traits from the environmental reaction to its genes on its genotype. For example, green crack one green crack too. If you ran a bunch of seeds of green crack the numbers are your phenotype. The name is your genotype.
How do you pick the best seed genetics?
Mike Haagen: How I pick them is I watch grow reports, and I watch the testers because they’re generally the first people that are growing out that breeders seeds. I follow them closely.
There are certain traits I look for and what I want in a plant, and that’s what I specifically go after. Honestly, everybody has such different preferences for what they want. It’s hard to tell them to go to this guy or got to that guy. It’s pretty clear who’s doing it right and who’s doing it wrong just by seeing what they’re doing and seeing the photos there producing in the grow reports.
A lot of it comes down to the grow reports. Your seeing and reading people’s reports and looking at the plants that they have because that’s as close to what you can find without it being a clone from their house. That’s the only way you can know what you’re getting.
With seeds, it’s always kind of a crapshoot, but it’s an educated crapshoot. You kind of know what you’re getting into, but at the end of the day, it’s still a hunt to find something.
It’s kind of like making two dogs breed and hoping the characteristics of a patch around its eye carry through to its offspring. It’s likely to happen, but you can’t guarantee it’s going to happen
Is there any technology out there in your experience that guarantees certain traits?
Mike Haagen: You can probably DNA splice the plants and put those traits into it. I’m positive you can do that. I just don’t know the technology, and I’m pretty sure it will be so expensive it wouldn’t be worth it, but we definitely can do that. I know we can we do that to animals, so plants are a lot easier.
I was reading about how we spliced the DNA of jellyfish that glow; we put it on some trees so that the trees glow now. They do some pretty cool stuff with the genetic splicing.
What are the best cannabis seeds banks in your opinion?
Mike Haagen: I don’t deal with a lot of seed banks, but there are a few good ones out there.
I’ve heard of James Bean, Neptune, Greenline, Oregon Elite; It’s pretty much hit and miss with a lot of them because a lot of them are shipping so many seeds that some people fall through the cracks. I’ve had good experiences with the few I’ve dealt with, a lot of that comes down to information online that a simple google search would help.
There’s a lot of reports on seed banks. Where to buy your seeds from and the people that get burned on seeds are very vocal about it. The ones to avoid are pretty obvious right off the bat
Which ones should a person avoid?
Mike Haagen: I haven’t dealt with any that I’ve had a bad experience.
I’ve read accounts of other people having bad experiences. It more comes down to they’re angry about the amount of time it takes for them to get the seeds not necessarily whether they get them or not.
When looking into the seed banks make sure to see how quick you get the seeds shipped to you.
Some of the seed banks in the small print says it can take up to two to four weeks for you to get your seeds shipped. Some people are angry if it takes four weeks to get their seeds. Make sure you read the small print on some of the printouts.
I haven’t had any problems. I’ve gotten all mine within a week. If you’re not in America, there’s potential for issues especially if you’re overseas. If you’re overseas, I probably won’t buy seeds from any seed banks abroad; I’d make sure it’s within my country due to shipping.
What’s the difference between stable and true breeding?
Mike Haagen: A stable cross is a new mix of other crosses, and the offspring passed down. There are no major herm issues. It’s a successful combination of this.
True Breeding is working a landrace strain and then hitting it with the opposite landrace with different variations and adding traits. It’s a lot more long-term approach to creating something but if you’re adding all the genetics in a natural way versus crossing two people’s hybrids and hoping it works out.
Before gene splitting, this was a close as you can get. You have your piece of paper with your landrace and then add crosses and crosses, add your traits, test it hope the desired traits stayed. The ones that did stay then work with, at some point, you’re approximately five years deep on true breeding while the other you can do in three months.
True breeding takes a lot of more than stable breeding?
Mike Haagen: Yes.
Which one do you prefer?
Mike Haagen: I have a biased opinion. I respect true breeding that’s the people doing all the work.
If you’re going to buy seeds from true breeders, they’re expensive. Getting a clone from someone doing true breeding they can range from ten to fifteen thousand dollars.
It’s kind of the norm for certain cuts out here. It’s ridiculous. As long as the cross is stable, I’ll buy it. I’ve bought unstable crosses knowing their unstable just because I’m looking for a specific trait.
If you want cherry traits, you’re going to have to get into the unstable game. If you started growing cookies and cherry pie and all that stuff you’re going to learn which herms, which way they herm, what weeks they herm at, and what causes the herms.
If you overfeed, you can induce herming. A lot of people that have genetic issues with their plants they blame it on the plants, but the plants just don’t have the tolerance for a newer grower. They’re finicky.
Mike Haagen: Crossing is pretty much is taking two strains and crossing them together. If you take those two strains and then you have their offspring, and then you cross one of them back to the parent. That’s the backcross. So you’re crossing back to its parent.
You have two crosses just, for example, blue dream and dream track. You cross those two then you’ve got blue crack. You take those blue crack, and then you cross it back to either your blue dream or your dream crack, and that’s a back-cross.
You’re crossing it back to one of its original parents. If you wanted it to be two-thirds blue dream, if you wanted the yield of it, you would cross it back to the blue dream. It’s a way to get at 66 percent one of the strains more likely verses 50.
Why would anyone want to back-cross?
Mike Haagen: Because they wanted to add the trait of that one strain. Say you love that blue dream then you just wanted one of the traits of Green Crack, like how quick it finished flower.
You cross it, hope you get the best offspring that finishes quick and so it’s Blue dreamish. Then you cross it back to the blue dream and make it more blue dream dominant and find one that has that green track fast finishing trait. So you’ve added that trait to your Blue Dream indirectly.
What’s inbreeding depression?
Mike Haagen: Inbreeding depression is if you keep taking that one cross and crossing that within itself, it becomes a more stable kind of, the traits are more likely to find out what trait you’re going to get.
The more stable it gets, the more likely you are actually to have hermaphroditism because of inbreeding.
Plants are kind of like animals, just how they need to be continuously outbred so that they become more immune to sickness and illnesses. It’s that way with plants if you keep inbreeding they become deformed over time. It’s not natural.
Mike Haagen: Outbreeding is the process of crossing them outwards to any different strain that’s a different family than them.
Before I end the show Mike, is there any questions I should be asking? Is there anything I’m missing?
Mike Haagen: Well, one of the things I wanted to touch on was when you look at breeders for how they breed out, each one has a different agenda.
I would focus on what their agenda is, and what they push, and if that’s what you want then go with that breeder.
Everybody has a different priority, and mine just being flower time and PM resistance. Others have other priorities.
Align your priorities with the right breeder and find a cross that works for you.
Seeds aren’t that expensive get a couple of packs and try out compare them against each other.
Do you recommend specific seeds for sleep apnea Or PTSD? Or any time of common ailment?
Mike Haagen: Yeah. So basically they all have different ratios of terpenes and levels of THC CBD CBN CBG there are ones that aren’t as common, all the strains have different variables and different levels of all of those.
When you break all those strains down to concentrate level, we can then dissect the different specific like CBG and then mix it with a particular terpene and then that can help you.
These different strains they all have different types of terpenes, and basically, all these different terpenes do different things for you. A lot of them have what we found to be the medicinal value of the strains.
Each strain has a different level of it. Some people grow CBD’s for that reason, and some people grow dominant THC’s for that reason.
I’ve looked into CBG’s, that’s kind of interesting it’s not as common. I was reading about it because a couple people I knew they had a customer that had spinal issues from a motorcycle accident and CBG apparently helps with spinal issues. The guy swore by it.
I started looking into CBG, and it’s one of the rarest types of molecules in cannabis. It’s something I’ve been starting to breed towards, and other breeders I’ve noticed have been breading towards different types of molecules in cannabis, so it’s something to add in there when you’re looking into breeders.
Do you have any closing statements or shoutouts?
Mike Haagen: No, just get some seeds and grow, everybody enjoy it. It’s fun hunting seeds.
I watched a Vice episode some guys the Netherlands, and I think they went down to Africa and they hunted for seeds. I think one guy died.
Mike Haagen: He got malaria.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
Mike Haagen: Yeah, Franko from the Strain Hunters. Those guys used to fly to all of these crazy countries and get authentic landrace strains.
They were OG’s to that. People would complain about some of the seeds that they would buy, but they didn’t realize that was what true landrace cannabis. True landrace cannabis is difficult to grow, and it doesn’t look what hybridized marijuana looks like to your average consumer in America.
They were finding rare and unique traits. They were providing to breeders. They were doing it big for us. It was a big deal.
Now that is what you would call true breeding, correct?
Mike Haagen: If that take those crosses and work them overtime then yeah. I believe a lot of them were just taking those rare ones and just crossing into another rare one and then releasing it. They are hybridizing landraces.
But regardless it was a huge step to put that seed form because when you find those plants, you’ve got to cut a clone of it and take it. It’s not in seed form.
I appreciate you being on the show and I hope to talk to you again soon.
I appreciate it.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. Take it easy.
Visit Mike Haagen on his Instagram