Oregon-based grower Nikolai Kuehn has been working in the cannabis industry for a long time. He started his first joint in 1966, back when weed was “full of seeds.” It was a guerilla growing operation: Kuehn and his friends would go into the woods to plant during one season and return during another to inspect the fruits of their labor. Every year, they kept seeds from the plants that produced the best bud. This way, they made sure each subsequent harvest was more bountiful than the last.
That was the ‘60s. Today, weed has not only been legalized in large portions of the US, but the cannabis industry—like just about every other industry—is being digitized. Kuehn—now 71 years old—is staying with the times. His guerilla growing days long behind him, he now serves as owner and operator of Premium Seed Market, a one-stop webshop where entrepreneurs and enthusiasts from across the country can purchase high-quality seeds at low, fair costs where Kuehn works alongside head owner Mike Campion to grow the best flower possible.
Kuehn launched Premium Seed Market to address a problem that many individuals in the cannabis industry can relate to. “Years of buying seed for what I considered to be exorbitant sums inspired me to build a seed company that would offer great genetics at reasonable prices,” he told High Times. “It took 15 years to get to the point where we had all the pieces in place to start selling. We grow and sell only our own seeds. This allows us to eliminate the additional cost seed banks add to their prices.”
Armed with over 30 years of cultivating experience, Premium Seed Market has grown more than 150 strains and claims to offer some of the best indica, sativa, hybrid, and CBD seeds available anywhere. At their base in Oregon, Kuehn and his colleagues pick their seeds by hand, preserving only the strongest genetics to achieve a consistent result. “We provide seeds that anyone can grow successfully,” their website boldly states, from “beginners to experts.”
Oregon is known as one of the best places in America for cultivating cannabis, and Premium Seed Market takes full advantage of the state’s uniquely diverse climate. Their farm in Central Oregon—which lies at an elevation of 3,600 feet—receives less than six inches of rain per year and enjoys up to 280 days of sunshine. Though not as ideal for growing flower as Northern California, Kuehn stresses the local weather is “perfect for seed production.”
At Premium Seed Market, growing season typically lasts around 64 days. “We do not do everything indoors,” Kuehn explained, dispelling a popular myth about seed growing. “We utilize greenhouses, light deprivation, and some outdoor growing as well. To try and grow the best seed possible, we need to see how it grows in varying environments.” Plants are placed in different settings as the growing process unfolds; usually, they start indoors in January, then move outside later in the year.
Though they seem similar, breeding seeds and growing flower couldn’t be more different. The main challenge of growing flower comes in the form of understanding the conditions in which cannabis plants thrive, what type of soil they need to reach their fullest potential, how much light, heat, cold, moisture, nutrition, etc. Seed breeders, on the other hand, have to dig even deeper; they need to grasp the underlying genetics that dictate a plant’s aforementioned potential.
“There are too many unique challenges,” Kuehn said of his craft. “Growing seed, in my opinion, is probably the hardest endeavor a cannabis cultivator can pursue.” Through careful selection, seed breeders can modify strain traits and amplify characteristics such as yields, aromas and—of course—potency. This is the basis of breeding. However, as Kuehn said, things get much, much more complicated.
Smokable cannabis is derived from female plants which are isolated from male ones so that they produce only flower and no seeds. In order to produce seeds, breeders cross male and female plants. Success is contingent on their comprehension of the fertilization process. Specifically, they must know how the sex of a plant influences the manner in which its traits are carried over into subsequent generations. Generally, male traits should be used to complement female ones.
At Premium Seed Market, Kuehn is also focused on combining plants to produce the best possible genetic characteristics. Every day, he selects plants that show the greatest potential for performance, pedigree, mold resistance, yield and THC percentage. Kuehn is continuously on the lookout for favorable genetic traits that he can breed into new strains. Currently, his team is working on a handful of “PSM exclusive strains” and promises to keep us posted on their development.
Premium Seed Market not only wants to provide people with seeds that are affordable but also consistent in their quality. Too often, cannabis companies are forced to pay a fortune for seeds that never take root. “Lack of germination has several causes,” Kuehn explained. “It might be damaged from improper processing, immaturity or the person sprouting might make an error. They might not use enough water, or the soil might not be warm enough.”
Kuehn has little control over how his customers go about growing seeds. However, he can greatly improve their chances of success simply by providing them with stabilized strains. If a strain is properly stabilized, Kuehn informs High Times, that strain will “show the same genetic traits with minimal drift.” Stabilization makes growing flower a lot easier, especially when you’re starting out. Inexperienced cultivators can focus on learning the ropes of the trade, knowing the seeds will do their part.
Again, Premium Seed Market’s website states anybody can grow their seeds. “If you can grow house plants, flowers or tomatoes,” Kuehn—no doubt remembering his own humble origins as a guerilla farmer—exclaimed, “you can grow our strains. We have first-time growers send us pictures of 15-foot plants that yield three to five pounds. Size, yield and potency will vary with competence. Yield is impacted by the quality and quantity of the nutrients. Different strains need different levels of NPK.”
Kuehn advises first-time growers to keep a few extra plants so you have replacements ready if any problems arise. It’s also not a bad idea to start administering your nutrients in small amounts, upping dosages based on your plant’s response. “Any plant wants to reach its genetic potential,” he concluded. “It needs the correct amount of inputs to attain it. There will be failure, but that is part of farming. Anyone who says differently is telling you a lie.”
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