A few years ago many home growers had never heard of autoflowering cannabis varieties. Today they account for almost half the seeds sold by Dutch Passion. Auto varieties grow from seed to harvest with 20 hours of daily light, taking about 75 days. They don't require any growing experience, they are fast and the best autos are high-THC and just as good as any photoperiod variety. Many people grow autos alongside their traditional photoperiod varieties, and some people have switched completely to auto growing.
But the current performance levels from the best modern autos has taken many years to achieve. Here is a brief summary of the evolution of the modern auto.
1st generation autos. Not bad, but yield and potency had to be improved.
The Joint Doctor will be remembered for bringing the first auto varieties to market following his work in the 80’s and 90’s stabilising the genetics which would allow cannabis to bloom regardless of the light cycle. Many refer to these pre-2005 genetics as the 1st generation autos. The Joint Doctor managed to bypass the fundamental rules of cannabis which stated that a plant would only bloom when daily light hours were reduced to around 12 hours. By allowing the auto cannabis plant to bloom under 20+ hours of daily light the plant would have a new photosynthetic advantage over photoperiod varieties. Biomass and bud production under 20 hours of daily light was of course much higher than that which would be possible under just 12 hours of daily light. But that was the theory. The only problem was that the first generation of autoflowering cannabis varieties lacked potency and yield, plants were often small, under 30cm tall with low yields and medium potency. For the short sighted breeders in the cannabis community that was proof positive that autos were incapable of mainstream success. But the rest of us saw something much more interesting, and work continued.
2nd generation autos. Potency improvements, but more work needed.
The 1st generation autos gave us a glimpse of the auto dream - blooming under 20 hours of daily light, something that no-one thought possible. It was a fantasy of most serious breeders. One of the great ironies of cannabis breeding is that the light energy has to be cut dramatically in order to initiate bloom. Now the photo-gene was bypassed the home grower could bathe his blooms in an extra 8+ hours of light per day. More light means more biomass, and continued refinements to the auto gene pool saw larger plants with improved potency and yield. Here is where some of the really hard work began as autos began to be crossed and back crossed to improve the overall genetic composition. There were varying levels of success, some of the seed banks were able to move the genetics along faster than the others. During this time different breeders experimented with different breeding techniques and tricks to push potency and yield. In Dutch Passion we refer to these as the 2nd generation autos which were mainly seen in the years from 2005 to 2010. Results were improved, the early adopters liked what they saw, but wanted more.
3rd generation autos. The wait really was worth it.
The 3rd generation autos are those that we see from the premium seed banks today. The best auto home-growers routinely harvest 100-200g+ from their autos, and simply can’t distinguish between the potency of their autos and photoperiod varieties. An additional benefit of the best 3rd generation autos is that they can be grown under 24 hour light, at least that is true of the best 2 or 3 seed companies. For people growing in cold winters, 24 hour lights-on can help maintain optimum grow room temperatures. But a word of caution, there is still a large gap between the best seed banks (who offer genuine 3rd generation auto genetics) and the rest of the seed banks, many of whom are still struggling with inconsistencies in yield and potency. There are some great auto genetics out there, but that is only half the story, you also need the experience, know-how and techniques to be able to produce the seeds consistently.
Today the best seed companies continue to fine-tune auto breeding techniques to produce further improvements to the auto gene pool and further refinements to the consistency of seed production and potency of the resulting plants. One thing is certain, the auto story has not finished yet, auto-fans have lots more to look forward to.