Every bag of seed in your local store has what’s known as a seed tag or seed-analysis tag attached. It is not rare to see novice growers wondering what IBL, BX or S1 mean. While they may seem useless, these acronyms give plenty of information when we Make your first ‘cross’ a success by creating a structured breeding program with these 6 tips and a simple, 4-step program.
How to Read a Grass Seed Label
Choosing the best grass seed for your lawn projects can seem overwhelming when you’re faced with so many choices in local stores. Differences in packaging, products and applications can complicate even the simplest comparisons. The bag itself provides important information about the product, the technology behind it and the types of projects it suits best, such as patching and repairing or seeding new lawns. But labels aren’t the only way to determine the best investment for your time and money. Products also carry seed tags to tell you more about what’s inside the package.
What Is a Seed Tag?
Every bag of seed in your local store has what’s known as a seed tag or seed-analysis tag attached. Thanks to the Federal Seed Act 1 and state seed laws, every seed product must carry standard, uniform information to prevent misrepresentation and help consumers make informed choices.
On bags weighing 15 pounds or less, seed tags are usually printed on the back of the bag, at the bottom. On larger bags, tags are sewed into the bag’s top seam. On jugs of seed, you’ll find the seed tag printed on the side panel. Understanding a seed tag isn’t very complicated once you learn what it provides.
What a Seed Tag Tells About Grass Seed
Information on every seed tag is based on actual testing of the seed product. Every item of information equips you to choose the cleanest, purest, highest quality seed for your needs. Formats vary, but every seed tag provides the following:
1. Seed Product Name: This is the brand name, and it’s usually the first item on the tag. On Pennington products, you’ll find names such as One Step Complete for Sun & Shade Areas or Pennington The Rebels Tall Fescue Blend Keep in mind that mixes contain more than one grass species, and blends contain different varieties of the same grass.
2. Net Weight of Bag/Container
3. Pure Seed: Purity indicates the percentage by weight of each grass variety and kind named. The percentages reflect the quantity of pure grass seed versus other contents in the bag.
Seed tags may list several lines under the Pure Seed heading. Varieties with the highest percentage are listed first. The total of all the percentages under this heading reveals what percentage of the bag’s contents are pure seed.
4. Variety and Kind: Each line of pure seed lists the variety and kind of seed next to its purity percentage. Kinds of grass are general species, such as Tall Fescue, but varieties are grasses that exhibit distinct characteristics in areas such as performance or appearance that distinguish them from other grasses of the same kind. Knowing variety names can help you match your lawn’s specific needs.
Kinds are similar to apples versus oranges, while varieties are akin to Granny Smith versus Red Delicious. For example, Mallard Kentucky Bluegrass listed as the variety and kind lets you know you’re getting more than standard bluegrass. The Mallard variety identifies an award-winning, drought-tolerant grass developed through Pennington-affiliated research and breeding programs.
VNS on a seed tag stands for “Variety Not Stated,” which typically refers to lower cost, lower quality seed. Premium grass seed generally relies on exceptional named varieties, but VNS seed can contribute to quality seed products.
5. Germination Rate: For each pure seed variety and kind, the germination rate reflects the percentage that germinated under laboratory conditions during testing on the seed lot. This is the percentage you can expect to germinate and produce normal, healthy seedlings under optimal conditions.
Pure seed percentages reflect quantities by weight, but germination rates indicate potential performance.
6. Origin: Seed tags list the state, U.S. possession or foreign country where each named pure seed was produced or propagated.
7. Other Crop Seed: Any seed that comprises 5% or less of the product by weight can go unnamed. Smaller seed amounts, other than pure seed and weed seed, are combined in this percentage.
8. Inert Matter: Seed products can contain non-seed materials as a natural occurrence of cleaning and processing seed. Inert matter reflects the percentage of these materials, such as sand, soil, stem pieces and seed parts. In all-in-one products, such as Pennington One Step Complete, this percentage also includes the product’s beneficial mulch and fertilizer. Tags on these products provide a breakdown of these inert ingredients.
9. Weed Seed: This item reflects the percentage by weight of seeds found during testing that your state considers weeds. This is seed other than pure seed and other crop seed. Weed designations vary from state to state.
NOTE: The percentage of all pure seed, other crop seed, inert matter and weed seed should always equal 100%.
10. Noxious Weeds: Noxious weeds are categorized by state and listed separately on the seed tag. Noxious weeds are regulated and may be restricted or prohibited from state to state. Seed tags note the name and the number of seeds found per pound during testing. This is different than the other items on the seed tag that are calculated by percentage of total package weight.
11. Guaranteed Analysis: Seed tags on all-in-one, fertilizer-inclusive products include a guaranteed analysis of the fertilizer and soil amending ingredients. To help consumers compare products easily, all fertilizer product labels carry three numbers denoting the fertilizer’s N-P-K ratio — the proportion of the nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These numbers reflect each nutrient’s percentage by weight. Learn more about understanding fertilizer information from Pennington Fertilizer by reading Numbers to Grow By: Understanding Fertilizer Labels.
12. Lot Number: This permanent identification number traces the seed back to a specific batch that was processed and tested. Test results apply to all seeds that were part of that lot.
13. Test Date: This date indicates when the seed lot was tested for germination. Seed germination rates drop over time, even under optimal storage conditions. However, lots can be retested and “over-stickered” with a new seed tag if the germination rate meets the label guarantee.
14. Sell By Date: Each state allows seed to be sold for a fixed number of months after the initial testing or retesting. Allowances vary, and some states require tags carry “sell by” dates. Seed tags include these dates alongside state-specific listings.
15. Name and Address of the Seed Company
Putting Seed Tag Information to Use
Seed tag information underscores the value of superior grass seed, but it also determines how much seed you actually need. Seeding recommendations are based on what’s called Pure Live Seed (PLS). A product’s PLS reflects pure seed percentages and germination rates. Planting rates on Pennington Seed packaging take PLS into account, so package directions show the amount of seed you need based on tested germination rates, but not all seed packaging does.
With a good understanding of seed tag information, you can see beyond the bag to the integrity of the seed inside. Seed tags on premium, purebred Pennington Smart Seed and the full line of Pennington’s grass seed products help you feel confident you’re getting the best value and the best quality seed for your project.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service, Federal Seed Act, issued March 1940, amended August 1988, revised April 1998.
Pennington, Pennington 1 Step Complete and Smart Seed are registered trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.
Basic nomenclature of cannabis genetics
Often, when it’s time to buy cannabis seeds, the beginner grower can quickly become confused by some of the acronyms that are written next to the name of the variety. Simply by learning some basic concepts you’ll be able to make the correct choice between seeds with the same name, but different acronym.
There is a big difference between acquiring a second filial generation (F2) or an IBL, even if we talk about seeds of the same variety. These differences will condition the growth pattern of the plants, and also the final product, so that it is almost essential to learn exactly what is the meaning of these acronyms to be more accurate in choosing which seeds to buy, saving ourselves deceptions and getting closer to our preferences.
Also known as landraces or purebreds, pure cannabis varieties have been the basis of cannabis breeding over the past decades. These species are endemic to a geographical area, where they have developed without having been crossed (hybridised) with other varieties. There are a large number of landraces from all around the planet, belonging to any of the three families of cannabis, C. sativa, C. indica and C. afghanica. Nepal is a good example; in this country different pure cannabis varieties (mostly narrow-leaved mixed use varieties) are grown and you can easily see the differences between genotypes based on the height above sea level at which they are cultivated.
Each variety expresses its genetic code (genotype) with a certain growth and flowering pattern (phenotype), so that pure varieties – with a purest genotype – show great uniformity, with just a few slight differences between phenotypes. We can expect very little variation between landrace specimens of the same variety, giving plants with very similar growth, organoleptic and psychoactive traits. Good examples of these varieties can be Hindu Kush (Sensi Seeds), Colombia Punto Rojo (Cannabiogen) or China Yunnan (Ace Seeds).
IBL or stabilized cannabis hybrids
The IBL acronym (in-bred line), means that the cross was made using plants with almost identical genotype (inbreeding). On the contray, outbreeding is employed to introduce new genes into the variety. Although it happens naturally, self-pollination is a common technique used by breeders to fix desirable traits and thus stabilise the genetic line, either with landraces or hybrids. In cannabis genetics IBL seeds should present a highly uniform growth. Classic IBL examples are Skunk and Northern Lights (Sensi Seeds) or White Widow (Greenhouse). There is a lot of work behind IBL’s like these, as a large population of pure specimens had to be used to select the correct parents. In addition, the breeder must fight against inbreeding depression, the result of crossing parents with very similar genetic information. The reward for this job made properly is a highly stable seed variety.
If we make a cross between two different landrace or IBL lines (parental A and B) with different genotypes, the resulting offspring will be the F1 hybrid, the first filial generation from the cross of the phenotype #1 (Parent A) with the phenotype #2 (Parent B). Commonly in this kind of crosses we will observe a very uniform offspring, depending on how stable the parents are, of course. The F1 hybrid between two pure varieties or IBL’s will show the so-called hybrid vigour – also known as heterosis or outbreeding enhancement – introducing new genes that will produce “better” specimens.
Varieties like Orient Express (Ace Seeds), Red Afro (Tropical Seeds) or Eddy from Original Delicatessen would be good examples of true F1 hybrid. Thus, we refer to the first filial generation of any cross as an F1, while the term “F1 hybrid” is used when the parents are different landrace or IBLs.
How to create a polyhybrid
When we cross two F1 individuals (whether landraces, hybrid or polyhybrid varieties), we obtain the second filial generation or F2, and so on with next generations, F3, F4, etc. The second filial generation often gives a more heterogeneous offspring than the F1; we can expect 25% to resemble parent A, 25% to resemble parent B and 50% will be a mixed expression of traits from both parents. As a consequence the stabilisation work must continue generation after generation ( F3, F4, F5…) until we find the generation that gives a uniform offspring with the traits that we are seeking.
Many of the seeds that we can find in shops are polyhybrids, crosses between different hybrids. The offspring of such crosses are in many cases quite unstable, producing plants with very different traits. Keep in mind that in these cases, the genetic mix is very varied, so we can not expect polyhybrid offspring to be as homogenous as an F1 hybrid. It’s easy to imagine how complex it can be to stabilise a cross, since we are mixing different genes from different varieties, which makes the selection and stabilisation process of the different traits a very hard work. The vast majority of hybrids on the market are in fact polyhybrids, like the White Russian (Serious Seeds) or Fruity Jack / Jack el Frutero (Philosopher Seeds).
BX or Backcross
Backcrossing is a common technique used by breeders to fix certain traits. This is done by crossing one of the progeny (F1, F2…) with one of the original parents (recurrent parent) which has the desired trait. To have an even more stable expression of the desirable trait, you can cross the BX1 again with the recurrent parent to have a BX2 (squaring) and so on with BX3 (cubing), BX4, BX5.
This technique is also used to replicate clones in seed form. It is done by choosing a male parent to cross with the clone only, backcrossing it as many times as needed to get an offspring as similar as possible to the original clone. The Apollo 13Bx (TGA Subcool) is an excellent example of this technique.
Tropimango by Philosopher Seeds
S1, feminised cannabis seeds
The acronym S1 refers to the first filial generation produced as a result of crossing the plant with itself. This is achieved by a range of techniques aimed at reversing the sex of the selected female plant, getting it to produce male pollen and using it to pollinate itself. If it’s done properly, we get feminised offspring with the same genotype of the parent used.
As always in genetics, the more stable the parent is, the more stable the offspring will be. This technique can also be used as a regular backcross, selecting and fixing traits but starting with just one parent. Thus, we can find S2 or S3 seeds, which have been backcrossed again with the original parent. Examples of S1 are Tropimango (Philosopher Seeds), S.A.D. (Sweet Seeds) or Trainweck (Greenhouse).
The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.
6 Tips for Cannabis Breeding Success
Make your first ‘cross’ a success by creating a structured breeding program with these 6 tips and a simple, 4-step program.
Breeding programs for almost any plant can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make them. Fortunately, you can quickly and effectively develop your own breeding program, even if you are a beginner. All it takes is a sharp eye for positive traits that you’re interested in developing and an accurate record-keeping system to track the usable crosses you’ve made, as well as the parental lines (male and female) that you’ve used.
Cannabis is dioecious (meaning the species includes separate female and male plants) as opposed to monecious (which means that an individual plant can have both male and female flowers). You need both male and female plants to begin a breeding program. TIP: It is imperative that you separate males and females from the beginning, and keep them separated throughout the program to ensure that you don’t get unwanted contamination by pollen from male plants that you have not selected to cross.
So how do you select breeding parents or parental lines to begin with? While it is relatively easy to select the female line, it can be difficult to select male lines for the following reasons:
- All the traits of interest on the female selection can be seen or documented, including: growth and development rates; flower characteristics such as size, quantity, smell and color; as well as potential for accumulating THC or CBD, and terpenes. This cannot be said of male plants.
- Male plants can only express growth and development traits visually. All other bud traits are hidden in their genetic makeup and are not expressed for selection. You can select for pollen sac size and density, but the data so far is inconclusive on how these traits translate to female flower size and density.
You can easily begin by selecting known female strains that have most or all the desired traits that you want expressed in any cross, and by selecting males that are derived from strains having other or stronger vegetative traits that you want incorporated into your new strain.
An Emerald OG strain cultivated by Clade 9 . Note the yellow stigmas on the buds, which indicate readiness for pollination.
TIP: Once you’ve selected your P1, or parental lines, you must cross them by gathering mature pollen from the male flower and physically placing it onto the mature female flowers. You can tell when the female flower is ready by observing the stringy, white-yellow stigmas developing from the buds. Many people say these stigmas look like hairs. Tip: Once the stigmas are seen, you can pollinate within a two- or three-week period, so long as pistils are still present and white in color. The males are ready for pollen extraction once you see the oval-shaped anthers starting to split open and release pollen. You can also tell by observing any powdery, yellow pollen accumulating on leaves just under the male flowers.
At this point, make sure you’ve isolated both female and male plants to avoid unwanted cross-pollination and follow these steps:
Step 1. Place a piece of foil or a smooth plastic cup under the pollen sacs while you shake them. You will see the yellow powder (pollen) accumulating. A little bit of pollen goes a long way. TIP: You can break up the total amount of pollen you have collected into packets and freeze them if you intend to use the extra pollen in the future.
Step 2. Isolate the female plant you want to pollinate and either shotgun the entire plant by shaking off your pollen above the plant and letting it float down onto the stigmas, or pollinate specific flowers individually by using either a fine-tipped brush, your finger or a pen cap. Pollinating individual flowers gives the breeder the ability to pollinate the same female plant with pollen from several males at one time. If you take this approach, make sure to label each branch or flower with the specific cross.
In breeding terminology, the female plant typically goes first in the naming convention. For example, “Snake Eyes x Diamond Dust” means Snake Eyes is the female plant receiving the male Diamond Dust pollen.
Step 3. It is imperative that your pollinated female plant is isolated from all other plants while seeds are developing, unless all the female plants are receiving the same male pollen.
Step 4. Provide mother plants with a good source of nutrients, including more nitrogen than what’s included in most bloom nutrient formulas. It may be helpful to switch to a vegetative nutrient schedule to ensure seeds receive what they need during the seed-formation process. Seeds should start forming a few weeks after pollination, and will be busting out of their heavy calyxes several weeks after that. If you need to keep the seeds, save them in a cool, dark place—like a refrigerator.
You have now made your first successful cross! The seeds derived from this cross are called F1. If you continue to cross F1s with each other, the resulting generation is called the F2.
Now you can germinate your F1 seeds and see how they grow. Do they grow fast or slow? How do the buds develop? How long is the flowering stage? What is the smell like? How about the taste, or the potency?
TIP: It may be helpful to keep clones of your plants in case one happens to be a real winner. That way you can use it as part of your breeding program indefinitely.
At this point, it is important to stress record-keeping. TIP: To breed successfully, you must keep great records. Write down which plants were bred together and how their offspring performed. This lets you keep track of traits that show up in the parents and offspring. It will also help you create new strains because you’ll be able to know what traits to expect when breeding certain plants.
David Holmes has 20 years of cannabis breeding and cultivation experience. He is co-founder and CEO of Clade 9 . Dr. William Torello has over 35 years’ experience in the plant and soil sciences. He works for Clade 9 out of Los Angeles.