Advantages Of Autoflowering Cannabis Strains -- Jun 03
With cannabis cultivation expanding due to legalization in many countries, everywhere from home grows to professional operations many growers are considering autoflower crops.

However, with autoflowering varieties being so new to the growing world there’s many questions surrounding this seed type. When choosing regular or feminized cannabis seeds for your garden, should you choose an autoflower variety? Let’s review the pros and cons of autoflowers, so you can make your best choice.

The Origin Of Autoflowers

While you’ve surely heard of Indica and Sativa cannabis plants, have you heard of cannabis Ruderalis? If you’re at all familiar with autoflowering strains, you may have. Cannabis ruderalis is a lesser-known species that originates from ancient times. The species grew wildly in parts of Russia, central/eastern Europe, and central Asia, meaning their genetics allowed and adapted to withstand harsh temperatures, environments and thrive without controlled periods of light.

Flash forward to modern growing times as cannabis breeders began to see the advantages of the Ruderalis species. By cross-breeding Ruderalis strains with Indica and Sativa, autoflowering cannabis genetics like Lowryder were born. This pioneer autoflowering strain along with many others have ‘automatic’ flowering tendencies that come with a few key characteristics that differ from regular genes. Let’s touch upon those differences and decide which ones are ‘pro’s’ and what are the ‘con’s’ of autos.

Advantages of autoflowers

Autoflowers are becoming popular amongst cannabis cultivators for a few convenient advantages. The strains’ automatic tendencies are ideal for new growers or operations seeking to improve efficiency. On top of that, most autoflowering varieties are also feminized, which makes the process of growing them even more enjoyable. Here are the top pros of growing autoflowering feminized cannabis seeds.

Automatic Flowering without Light Cycles

Most cannabis plants are dependent on ‘photoperiods’ for flowering. Which means that they require a period of light and a period of at least 12 hours of darkness a day to begin blooming. Even with the smallest light leak, regular cannabis strains can be subject to issues. Because cannabis ruderalis strains are non-photoperiod dependent, they do not require this standard light cycle. Autoflowering strains will begin to flower automatically without periods of darkness, and are normally not affected negatively by leaks of light.

Convenient and Compact Growth

Two words to describe autoflowering cannabis plants are small and sturdy. Typically, the plants do not grow taller than 120 cm (4 ft) and in some cases can be as small as 30 cm (1 ft). This is another key trait inherited from ruderalis plants as they adapted to fit and grow within their harsh originating environments. Because autoflowering plants are smaller in stature, they’re ideal for small space growers, or those looking to pack in as many plants as they can into their growing area.

Quick Turnarounds

While regular cannabis plants can take months to harvest, autoflowering varieties have much shorter life cycles. Most autoflowers are ready for harvesting within 10 weeks which allows growers to have more harvests per year or season. More than that, some varieties are complete within just 6-7 weeks. This is a major advantage for outdoor growers in colder climates who have a shorter period of time to cultivate.

Hardy History

Whether you’ve grown photoperiod cannabis plants before or not, you’re most likely aware of their finicky nature. But because cannabis ruderalis grew wild in harsh climates, autoflowering varieties are exceptionally resistant. Autoflowers are more durable towards temperature changes, pests and disease. It certainly is a characteristic that just adds to their advantageous nature as you don’t have to monitor or supplement their growth as much as with regular varieties.

Ideal for Beginner Growers

Due to the pro’s we’ve listed already autoflowering feminized cannabis seeds are ideal for first-time or beginner growers. Autoflowering varieties take the reigns of their own growth and life cycle needing very little from the cultivator. They require less maintenance overall especially avoiding the work it takes to maintain light cycles for flowering. This also means it takes less equipment and growing experience or knowledge to make autoflowers grow successfully, too.

Disadvantages Of Autoflowers

Of course, autoflowers aren’t ideal for every operation or grower. Depending on your ultimate goal for cultivation some disadvantages of autoflowering varieties might make them not suitable for your growing needs. Here are the top cons of autoflowers to help you make that decision.

Lower Yields In Comparison To Photos

With the advantage of smaller plants you may have expected the first disadvantage – lower yields. Because cannabis ruderalis plants are shorter and smaller in stature they do have lesser bud sites. It means that your end quantity or weights will be less in comparison to regular cannabis plants. For home growers, autoflowers can produce an ideal yield but in commercial operations it’s definitely a factor to consider.

Generally Less Potent

While ruderalis plants have a plethora of advantages from its automatic growing tendency it does come with one big drawback for many. The species notably produces lower THC counts than indica or sativa strains hence autoflowers can also be less potent than photoperiod strains. Cannabis ruderalis has low levels of THC naturally, so most of the THC that autoflowering varieties contain comes from the indica or sativa strain they’ve been crossed with.

Sensitive to Training Techniques

Training techniques are often used to boost the quantity and quality of cannabis plants’ buds. Unfortunately, with the short life cycle of autoflowering strains they can be sensitive to many training methods like HST (high stress training) or topping. Autoflowers' natural increased growth rate and short vegetation period means plants have a harder time recovering from any type of stress and probably the only technique they can handle is Low-Stress Training.

Autoflowers Are Improving

When considering the pros and cons of autoflowers you should also know that breeding technology and industry advancements are quickly improving autoflowering varieties overall. Even some disadvantages are being proven untrue with autoflower strains that are able to produce equal yields to standard plants, or high levels of THC. It’s all about the quality and cross-breeding of the autoflowering genetic that is proving to defy the cons. Take for example, the strongest indica strain among autoflowers, Auto Gelato #33 by Advanced Seeds. This autoflowering variety delivers a whopping average of 23% THC and bountiful yield of 550g/m² (19 oz/m²). At the same time, the strongest autoflowering sativa, Dutch Passion’s Auto Orange Bud is pungent in fruity flavor, and is even more potent with average THC levels of 26%. These strains are just a few examples of how autoflower genetics overall are improving tremendously.

To Autoflower, Or Not To Autoflower

When growing cannabis there are a multitude of factors to consider before beginning your crop. With the growth of successful autoflowering strains the question ‘to autoflower or not to autoflower’ is increasing among growers beyond just beginners. Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of their pro’s, con’s and recent improvements you can make the choice that will work best for your garden.