With over 30 years experience and over 50 cannabis cups under their belts, Soft Secrets decided to sit down with the heavily dedicated breeders at the Dutch Passion Seed Company.
SSUK: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with Soft Secrets. Can you tell our readers how you got started over 30 years ago?
DP: Henk van Dalen, our founder, was a Biology graduate from Amsterdam University with a keen interest in collecting seeds from the cannabis that was being imported into Amsterdam from all over the world at the time. As he began to grow and experiment with the seeds in the 1970’s, he soon found that he could grow his own cannabis which was often better quality. Henk began to breed and make his own hybrids. He became convinced that growing your own cannabis was the best route to quality and consistency, and Dutch Passion was formerly established in the 1980’s.
Considered one of the most established seed banks, what are the best strains that Dutch Passion has?
Ask 100 different Dutch Passion growers and they will give you 100 different answers. These days we have some customers that only grow the 1:1 THC:CBD varieties. Then there are the usual indica-only or sativa-only growers who will never change their growing habits. Some growers cultivate auto’s exclusively, often because they use a single grow room on a 20/4 light schedule allowing them to raise seedlings and mature females in the same grow room.
Then there are the outdoor growers who stick to their tried and tested outdoor varieties. These days the cannabis home grown scene has become as diverse as it is sophisticated. As a seedbank you have to respond to that. In the old days we could have answered the question and said that Blueberry, White Widow, Mazar etc were our best strains. These days it’s no longer that simple.
You have over 50 cup wins in total, which are the most prolific and which strains do you recommend to any new growers out there?
For indoor growers looking for heavy hitting THC rich varieties with good taste and aroma we find our Night Queen, Orange Bud and The Ultimate easy to grow with heavy yields of hard-hitting, pleasing cannabis. Outdoor growers often find Frisian Dew and Passion #1 are easy and reliable. Many outdoor growers use autos these days, and so do plenty of indoor growers. Think Different, Auto Mazar and Auto Colorado Cookies are three potent, great yielding varieties.
What is your perspective now as far as regular seed sales compared to feminised. Did this revolutionise the industry for the better?
In the 1990’s there was a great deal of talk about the need for feminized cannabis seeds but creating them was difficult. In those days of course, 100% of the seeds were regular. After the techniques to create feminized seeds were discovered by Dutch Passion the demand for feminized seeds was overwhelming. Today feminized seeds account for over 95% of all cannabis seeds sold, and many seed companies no longer bother offering regular seeds, though Dutch Passion still stock 15 regular seed varieties.
You also offer a multitude of automatic strains. What goes behind making these strains and what are your best performers?
Auto varieties have come a long way from the first generation autos which were (at best) medium potency and medium yielders. These days, potency of the best autos is on the same level as photoperiod varieties, and yields of the best autos often exceeds that of photoperiods. That’s because autos have the advantage of being able to bloom under 20 or 24 hours of daylight with consequential bloom improvements.
We would say that all the Dutch Passion autos are on the same performance levels in terms of XL yields and THC levels, that’s because they all undergo the same, proven breeding techniques. The key to making good autos comes in two parts. Firstly you need elite parent varieties with locked-in potency and yields. Secondly you need a proven technique to convert winning genetics into an auto form.
Can you tell us more about the outdoor strains and what is recommended for European growers in Northern and Southern regions.
Firstly we should say that outdoor growers are using autoflowering varieties anywhere from the arctic circle to the equator and everywhere in-between. Scandinavian growers that don’t have a long enough growing season for outdoor photoperiod varieties grow autos instead. Often they are started indoors for a couple of weeks under 24 hour light and then planted outdoors for the best 3-month growing window. Most decent quality autos will do a good job outdoors if they have reasonable mold/pest resistance.
In northern Europe, the tougher outdoor photoperiod varieties such as Frisian Dew, Hollands Hope, Twilight and Durban Poison are often recommended. In warmer mediterranean climates many of our ‘indoor’ photoperiod varieties such as Power Plant, White Widow, Mazar etc can be grown outdoors. One trend we have seen is for outdoor growers to use a mix of both auto and photoperiod seeds.
What are the specific projects you work on when producing strains such as Think Different?
When creating a new auto you often start with scores of photoperiod possible parent varieties. These can be clones of known genetics or cuttings from special mother plants. Often, the bigger seed companies will take advantage of their extensive gene banks and grow some old seeds looking for special new genetics. Lab testing of all plants is of course vital whether you are looking to create a CBD-rich or THC-rich new auto.
A breeder is looking for several features to co-exist when introducing a new auto. Obviously you want the right cannabinoid profile, but you also want genuine XL yields, easy-growing characteristics with a robust growth pattern, heavy side branching and fast bud growth. Getting all of these together is the biggest challenge for the breeding project.
From your perspective how has CBD influenced not only the seed game, yet the whole medical front for cannabis in Europe?
CBD has been a game changer for the medical cannabis growers/consumers. Many medical growers now only grow CBD-rich varieties. And it’s not just Europe, if you visit a USA dispensary you will see CBD rich weed, concentrates and edibles. CBD affected the whole cannabis scene. Many recreational smokers now like to use a CBD rich variety for their day-time smoke, it allows them to ‘quench’ the desire for a smoke yet still function well afterwards without a disorienting strong psychedelic high.
The normalisation of CBD has been a great step forward for the image of medical cannabis as a whole. Even in prohibitionist strongholds like the UK we see CBD sneaking into mainstream health shops. Anything that upsets the prohibitionist apple cart has to be a good thing.
What are the current laws in Holland now regarding growing under a legal system?
In Holland we remain hopeful that eventually there will be sufficient political appetite to allow commercial cannabis growing to allow Dutch coffeeshops to have a legal ‘back door’ supply. Currently the coffeeshops have a legal front door where people can come and buy cannabis. But the coffee shop owners have to buy the cannabis illegally via the backdoor. Within a few years we expect that coffeeshop cannabis will be grown legally by businesses paying tax and offering good quality employment. Until then, unfortunately, the black market producers are enjoying a monopoly position with tax-free profits.
Is it correct you are also working on new cannabinoid varieties apart from CBD rich strains?
One of our more exciting projects is the creation of varieties rich in CBG, THCV and CBDV. We hope these varieties will start to appear in 2018, and we hope they will be useful to the medical growing community. The varieties have been bred with selective breeding techniques, meaning that parents are selected and crossed based on their cannabinoid profile. Over many generations the cannabinoid levels can be enhanced. It was only a matter of time before the CBD rich varieties were followed up with new varieties.
What can you tell the us about the research thus far based on cannabinoids CBG, THCV and CBDV?
We don’t have much medical feedback yet unfortunately, that is the bit we are really interested in. Realistically we expect that the medical feedback will begin in the months after release. We don’t know what the reaction will be, nor do we know which medical patients will benefit the most – this is new territory and no-one really knows what to expect. CBG is said to be the ‘mother’ cannabinoid from which the other cannabinoids are formed.
Curiously our smoke tests were raving, from a recreational perspective, especially about the great feel-good smoke from the CBG rich variety. Thats a surprise because CBG is said to be non-psychoactive, so perhaps the team were enjoying some full-profile cannabinoid effects. To be honest, there are more questions than answers about the new cannabinoids. But that is exactly what we expected.
You were one of the first to venture in LED lighting and break records with your harvests. How has LED shaped the industry and how involved with LED are you?
DP: We started seeing Dutch Passion customers growing with LED a few years ago. Often it was some of the best growers, and although LED was/is more expensive than HPS they refuse to switch back. Out interest in LED had begun, and we were so impressed with the results that we set up a separate dedicated LED business called Crazy LEDs which stock the best value/performance LED grow lights and sell them with free seed vouchers for Dutch Passion seeds.
LED has much reduced levels of heat-stress compared to HPS, they use less electricity than a comparable performance HPS, and they have a wavelength output optimised for cannabis growing. The main remaining benefit of HPS is the cheap initial purchase cost. Crazy LEDs is something we are heavily involved with, we remain convinced that LED is the future and we want to have Europe’s best LED grow light business.
Finally, what are your upcoming projects and is there anything you would like to add?
We are working as hard as ever at Dutch Passion. The innovation around new cannabinoid breeding shows that we are as keen as ever to explore new areas and break new territory. After 30+ successful years with Dutch Passion we want to continue that tradition and keep supplying home growers with the best quality seeds that will make growing top quality cannabis easy and convenient. Crazy LEDs has just moved into a large warehouse in Holland, customers will be able to visit and see all the best LED grow lights side by side.
By Stoney Tark