An Interview With Diggs Terra
By Stoney Tark
Photos courtesy of vlad @THISCANNABIS
Soft Secrets sat down with Diggs Terra, head breeder from the Humboldt Seed Organization, to catch up with them about their methods of breeding. With organics deeply rooted in Californian culture, and as one of the largest seed producers on the planet, we find out how different life is in Humboldt, California.
SS: Can you tell the readers about your role at the Humboldt Seed Organization?
Well, I am one of two of the founders (Ras and Diggs) of Humboldt Seed Organization and one of the lead breeders for the organization as well. My role at Humboldt Seeds is to oversee the breeding and flower production, throughout our many locations statewide in California as well as four other states in the US.
I also manage our global breeding and selection process with the assistance of our Spanish and Basque partners. As things have expanded over the years, we’ve directed the majority of our attention at maintaining the quality of care, excellent customer service and creating new and exciting varieties for the public.
How deeply rooted is organic growing in Humboldt, California?
Organic growing in Humboldt county is a way of life instead of just practice. Organic cultivation has become buried into the psyche of the community after the last 40 to 50 years. This was all spawned from a rebellious generation breaking away from the conformed way of living, that most people had done through two world wars and senseless third war. Organic cultivation really is natural farming.
People just wanted to get back to the roots. Our dependencies on society for the most basic amenities became something different for a small group of people looking for a new way of life. Organic cultivation in Humboldt County represents a consciousness towards health and well-being. From the food we eat to the water we drink, many people in Humboldt are conscious of these things and want to reflect them in their gardens.
Are you growing mostly indoors or outdoors?
We grow both indoors and outdoors. To maintain isolated sanitary and secure environment free from cross pollination, we preferred to do all this inside. All flower production and testing are done both indoors and outdoors to judge performance. We use a wide range of techniques to stress plants to activate potential susceptibilities and also allows us to see strengths.
We work with a large number of farms, as well as our internal farms to test and select as well as isolate new varieties. From large plants for the long-term season, as well as light deprivation in greenhouses, varieties are put to the test in all climates and cultivation scenarios.
Can you tell us more about your breeding facilities?
Breeding for the last ten years has been all about compartmentalization. Isolating varieties in the small grows allowed us to prevent cross-contamination, enabling each individual that we’re working with to become familiar with the varieties that we are breeding.
Now we have facilities to move to a larger scale, where we now have the capability of producing more numbers to select from. Standard selection can range from 100 up to about 300 plants. Most of these facilities are indoors.
We do have two locations where we do winter runs, and pollinating and greenhouses in the off-season, are less of a threat and liability to potentially harming someone else’s grow. Since pollen is a sensitive subject, especially for people who don’t deal with it we try to respect that space is much is possible, so indoor cultivation is the majority of our breeding footprint.
How many seeds are you producing within a year?
Depending on the variety and the demand, we produce a few million seeds in a year, yet as things become more legal production continues to increase.
What is done to avoid cross-contamination of pollen during breeding projects?
Compartmentalization is key to maintaining a clean space free from cross-contamination. We prefer to only work on one variety in a location at one time unless were exploring the creation of new varieties using one pollinator. Cross-contamination is a major issue, so we have found simplicity is the best path. This makes the process go slower but much more effective.
Can you tell us about the famous California strains that you work with?
We work with a lot of the classic and popular varieties that California has become known for. OG Kush and Bubba Kush were original classics, and still seem to have a timeless presence in the market. Classic, as well as some of the new designer varieties coming out, have found their way into our lineup. Some of the OG lines have been worked for many generations to exercise out specific susceptibilities while maintaining strong terpene profiles.
How do you think feminised seed revolutionized the seed game?
I feel there’s a lot of misconception about them, and I believe that it has played a significant role in the immediate and past acceleration of the industry. As consumers become more educated, it’s good that we draw a line in a clear understanding of the difference between the two. I believe that feminize seed will play a major role in the large-scale mass production and that genetics in the next five years will evolve rapidly.
We have been the bastard child of the agricultural industry, but this is all about to change. When making selections, they all are made from regular genetics with regular and natural pollen practices. Once things are stabilized, they are put into production for feminised seeds.
Do you see regular seeds making a strong come back?
Fortunately, there is a growing demand for regular genetics because most people realize, the only way you’re going to get something new that you can keep and work with, comes in regular form. We see a growing trend in Europe for the demand for regular seeds.
This is good. We would like to see more of the world participate in the realms of regular genetics. Helping to ensure that the scene stays in the hands of many and not just a few. With all these changes in the marketplace, we would like to see open source genetic concepts that are for everyone to share.
What do you define as a proper breeder?
Being a breeder is like being any other artist. We have specific things were attracted to certain things that inspire us, as well as individual things that drive us to create. My love of the plant and cultivation has helped define me as a person.
The plant has taught me patience, how to listen and observe as well as the persistence through slow, meticulous movement. This plant has been my botanical ambassador back to nature. So the relationship for me runs deep. I owe most of my prosperity in my adult life from working with this amazing plant.
What are your top tips for any aspiring breeders out there?
Get organized. I believe this to be the most difficult part. Recording data which I haven’t been really good at and saving things correctly. I know so many breeders over the years that have just lost track or poor storage of seeds resulting in a loss in someone’s genetic library. And like any artist follow what inspires you. We are all attracted and inspired by different things, and I believe this to be very subconscious. Our connection with the plant is unique to each one of us.
What is done to test the Humboldt strains that are made as far as cannabinoids and terpenes are concerned?
We are fortunate enough to have in-house testing for most of our European varieties, especially the CBD varieties that were four generations to achieve. With the new technology, we can combine our instincts with technology and science to get a closer look at both terpene profiles and cannabinoid profiles.
For years we were strictly dependent on her instinct, yet now with the two together we can make precise selections and better yet eliminate certain plants from the room, that don’t match the profiles that we’re looking for.
Where would you recommend anyone visiting California for a 420 friendly holiday, to go and see or visit?
Come to Northern California and especially Humboldt County. Remember, Humboldt is a compilation of people from all over the world concentrated in one area, where you have some of the best organic cultivation occurring on the planet. The natural beauty reinforces every cannabis lover’s dream, with a combination of really good herb and beautiful scenery, the way nature intended it to be, please visit us.
Finally, do you have a social media that our readers can follow you on?
Yes, you can check out our Instagrams for the Humboldt Seed Organization which are: @humboldtseeds, @Teamhso @Diggs_terra, @Geistv2, @Biovortex, and @californiakind. We also have a facebook page which is Humboldt Seed Organization
We have VIMEO as Humboldt Seed Organization, so there are plenty of platforms to see our breeding work first hand. We are excited to announce our new T.V programme The Best Of The West, so keep an out eye for that.