Over the decades breeders developed a combination of sativa and indica variables as well as a third sub-species of cannabis known as ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis, differs from sativa and indica varieties it two significant ways. Firstly, it contains little if any THC, and secondly, ruderalis plants reach maturity (i.e. flower) a set time after germination – flowering is not induced by changes in the light period.
As cannabis ruderalis is not reliant on day length shortening to induce flowering, it can be grown from seed to harvest under a constant 16 hour or even 24 hour lighting regime if desired. This can be convenient for indoor cultivation, as autos can be grown to maturity in a traditional vegging room alongside ‘traditional’ varieties if required. When grown outdoors, as the plants are reliant on plant age rather than day length to trigger flowering, automatic strains can be ready to harvest in the middle of the summer, with the possibility of even getting two crops in a season depending on latitude. No more struggling with frost, damp and mold as the days draw in!
Of course this is all good news and makes the autoflowering strains of cannabis very versatile and potentially useable in situations where standard sativas and indicas might not fare very well.
The flip side to all of this added versatility and increased pace of life cycle (i.e. quicker finishing plants), is that cannabis ruderalis is normally a smaller plant than an indica or a sativa, and as already mentioned, ruderalis has very little THC in it.
With regards to the smaller plant size produced by ruderalis genetics, this can be an advantage, particularly in situations where space is at a premium or there is a height restriction.
Of course this still leaves the matter of the THC content, which in a pure ruderalis strain is pretty much non existent, which has led people to dismiss automatic strains as not being worth bothering with. However, with careful selective crossing and interbreeding, cannabis breeders continue to improve the qualities of autoflowering varieties.
By carefully retaining the element of ruderalis genetics that gives the plant its auto-flowering behaviour, whilst at the same time incorporating various genetic traits from hazes, skunks, kushes and other highly desirable varieties, the medicinal properties of autoflowering cannabis varieties are improved upon year after year.
There is now a wide range of autoflowering cannabis varieties available from many of the long established seed breeders, as well as new breeders who specialize specifically in automatic varieties. There are now automatic hazes, automatic AKs, automatic Northern Lights, automatic cheeses, automatic criticals and blueberries, and so on.
Whilst automatic strains are not necessarily a direct substitute for ‘traditional’ varieties, there are many potential uses for such seeds and their ever increasing popularity is surely testament to their quality and versatility.