- Finding out they have a male plant in their crop is highly disappointing for most growers, who by all means try to prevent it from pollinizing the females. Otherwise, they would have to put extra effort in producing cannabis seeds for reproductive purposes and this would result in less psychoactive substances.
- That said, and even if the usual practice is getting rid of male cannabis plants, they have surprising uses that are worth knowing.
Vilified for years, male cannabis plants are systematically eliminated from plantations. In fact, if pollination occurs, the can well destroy the quality of an entire crop causing growers more than a headache. That said, males are not without value. Take a look at their amazing uses so that you are not tempted to ruthlessly pull them up whenever you see one.
1- Perfect for breeding
Male cannabis plants are essential in the creation of new marijuana strains. This is why breeders, the ones who deal with hybrids, are particularly fond of them. Whenever they have to create a new strain, breeders cross a female plant with a male plant so that the female gets pollinated. As a result, they obtain new hybrids that combine the best traits of both plants. This is how strains like White Widow, Sour Diesel or Blue Cheese have arisen throughout history.
When dealing with a cross, choosing the right male is paramount for a good end result, as its genes influence the offspring traits. However, assessing the traits of a male is not an easy job, so if you don't have modern lab equipment, you will have to judge by eye.
One possible method for finding the best father is selecting several individuals with which to pollinate a good mother plant. Make sure the males are strong and vigorous and with many flowers on the apex. Also, the buds should have as much pollen as possible. Once you have selected the right individuals, next step is the controlled pollination of several cuttings of the mother, one per pollinating male. To end with, you will have to grow each clone's resulting seeds to assess the quality of the crosses. A tedious but effective process that will provide you with excellent hybrids generation after generation.
2- Essential for the survival of the species
Much as hermaphroditism may occur, cannabis is a dioecious plant that produces male and female individuals. This is why, just as for the creation of hybrids, both sexes are necessary to ensure the survival of the different strains. Of course, female plants can be cloned for many generations, but endogamy weakens the offspring and at some point pollination becomes necessary again in order to obtain strong, healthy seeds that can keep improving the strain.
3- Thin, resistant fibres
When cannabis is grown for hemp (with THC levels below 1%) with a view to using the fibres, male plants are, undoubtedly, far better than females. According to a study, the fibres of male hemp are thinner and show higher torsional resistance and flexibility. Moreover, the fibre content percentage is higher in male plants: 31.5 % in males and 29.6% in females. Accordingly, male plants are used for fine fabrics such as tablecloths, handkerchiefs and bed linen while females are used for coarse products such as ropes and canvases.
4- Medicinal roots
Just as the leaves and stems of male plants are used for hash, juices and dyes, the roots don't need to end up in a trash bin either. In fact, there are documented uses of cannabis roots that date back to as far as 2700 BC. Shennong pên Ts'ao ching, a Chinese medicine book, praised their benefits as a pain reliever if dried, ground and applied as a paste. The book also mentioned their usefulness for stopping delivery bleeding.
In fact, while cannabis roots may not have enough THC or CBD, they boast other therapeutic compounds. One example is ethanol, which was proven in 1971 to contain friedelin, a liver-protecting antioxidant. Other compounds found in the roots are epifriedelanol, which prevents tumour growth, and pentacyclic triterpenes, which have antibacterial, diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Other than for their medicinal properties, the ancient Chinese found cannabis roots useful for making gunpowder. According to ancient documents, they blended the dried, ground and toasted roots with bamboo roots, pine resin and other substances and used the resulting mixture as ammunition for weapons as diverse as catapults and hand-grenades.
5- Nutritious seeds
Fed to animals and humans alike, seeds are one of the cornerstones of the hemp industry. Rich in vegetable proteins, magnesium and beneficial fats and with a mellow flavour that resembles that of sunflower seeds and hazelnuts, they lend themselves to a wide array of both savoury and sweet dishes. Again, cannabis male plants play a major role here, as without pollination seeds would not be produced and we would not have access to this treasured grain.
6- Great for soil restoration
The benefits of cannabis cultivation go far beyond the production of marijuana. One of them is cleaning the soil and protecting other plantations from pests. The strong root system of industrial hemp, –both male and female – is well capable of braking up compacted soil, contributing to its aeration and porosity as well as to its stabilization, which in turn prevents soil erosion.
On top of that, the plant has been shown to absorb radiation, heavy metals and other toxins caused by man's use of pesticides, solvents and hydrocarbons. This is why it makes a perfect rotation crop for other vegetables, boosting fertility and providing the soil with nutrients. Another interesting point is that it makes the soil less likely to get infested with the pests that tend to harm the crops, and so it can be sown again right away.
7- And as a natural repellent
Historically, cannabis has been widely used by farmers for the cultivation of vegetables and legumes. The dry leaves and flowers have long proven to be effective as pesticides and repellents, while cannabinoids have shown to have antibacterial and antimicrobial effects. Terpenes, for instance, – limonene and pinene particularly – protect potato crops form late blight and golden nematode, cotton from larva, cabbage from cabbage butterfly and wheat from rootworm.
And if grown close to home it is an excellent mosquito repellent. So if you are planning to throw away a male cannabis plant and you also have some other crops, you could consider transplanting it nearby, always making sure there are no female plants around that could come into contact with airborne pollen.
To put it short, despite their bad name and the need to keep them clear from females if resinous buds – and not seeds – is what you want, cannabis males have a couple of interesting properties that are worth remembering before systematically looking down on them.