Tissue Culture and Gene Preservation
1 Jun 2020

Tissue Culture and Gene Preservation

Jessica Rosslee

Table of Contents

Tissue culture is a technique that holds incredible potential for many fields, including horticulture, agriculture, plant physiology, secondary metabolite production, somatic cell genetics, and gene preservation.

The tissue culture technique can be used for mass propagation of plants with the same genetic expression. These plants are often propagated for retail purposes, but some developing countries with non-arable land and other challenges are turning to tissue culture techniques to meet food demands. By using tissue culture methods, the genes can be carefully selected and transformed, thereby allowing cultivators to have vigorous plants that are largely free from diseases and pests. Using the appropriate gene selection or transformation, cultivators can have high yielding plants with shorter growing times.

In the cannabis sector, we see how the tissue culture method is helping the industry to meet demands. Tissue culture has an array of different methods that can be exploited, one of which is the potential for gene preservation. Gene preservation is essential for a healthy and maturing cannabis industry. Gene preservation is an issue that we are seeing pop up with strains such as the infamous Durban Poison and others that are becoming lost as a new wave of breeders and cultivators emerge ready to profit off the industry.

Why is Genetic Preservation Relevant to the Cannabis Industry?

In cannabis cultivation, two things are vital:

  • New Genetics with known and trusted qualities
  • A product that can be produced from the genetics mentioned above

Any crop, whether cannabis or corn, will eventually begin to exhibit problems after some time of mass production. If any new seeds, transplants, or clones are introduced, the crop will be exposed to a potential array of new viruses, fungi, diseases, pests, or unfavorable genetics.

This is one common problem shared by all cultivators who make use of traditional propagation methods. Genetic variation, however, is crucial to maintaining a sustainable healthy long-term crop. Without genetic variation, gene-specific characteristics begin to fade out over time. Resiliency against disease and other pests can change. Breeders need to have a reservoir of gene variation available in order to find the right characteristics for developing resistance to pests, diseases, and simply to give the crop an overall improvement.

A trend of high yielding plant phenotypes became incredibly popular at the beginning of the legal cannabis industry. People, cultivators, and consumers alike wanted the highest yielding plants with the shortest waiting period. And so, the industry leaders obliged, new strains were developed, and known strains that possessed these qualities were spread.

In the wake of all this, the landraces have become affected, due to the increasing erosion of genetic variability in the landrace strains. Thanks to biotechnology, we may have a viable solution. Gene banking is a technique that falls under the umbrella of tissue culture techniques and could be a sustainable solution for gene preservation. So, is tissue culture the solution for gene preservation?

How does tissue culture preserve plant genes?

Tissue culture techniques offer us the opportunity to maintain distinguished gene lineage. When preserved with tissue culture, genes are in a kind of animated suspension and can be left in tissue banks for prolonged periods. These tissue banks can protect gene lineages from pests, diseases, and other challenges, without taking up excessive space.

Even if you don’t have a dedicated cultivation space or even if you know nothing about the specific chemotype, tissue banking offers a way to have genetic lineages safe and preserved for decades.

How Does PPM Play a Role?

PPM™, plant preservative mixture, is formulated for use in tissue culture. The role of PMM™ is to allow the culturing process to take place without contamination. PPM™ does this by targeting fungi and bacteria in plant tissue culture growth media and effectively eradicating contaminated tissue. The mixture is a broad-spectrum biocide, which makes it an efficient and effective alternative to other similar solutions, such as antibiotics. PPM™ also acts as a preventative measure since it can inhibit microbial contamination. PPM™ can reduce your culture’s chances of contamination from a variety of sources, including waterborne and airborne contaminants.

How is it Advancing?

The cannabis industry was only prohibited for around 90 years, and before the prohibition, it was a conventional medicine and commonly used industrial material as well. Excavated evidence and unearthed graves dating back thousands of years show cannabis was a revered plant, possibly used for practical, medicinal, magical, and spiritual purposes. While history hints at how the ancients used cannabis, the future is hinting at a different type of magic - the magic of science. The scientific exploration of cannabis is still relatively juvenile. However, with the continued advances in research, we will begin to learn more about the different terpene, flavonoid, and cannabinoid profiles and how they can affect the human body and mind. Tissue culture is an invaluable tool for this research, and can allow essential landrace genetics to be preserved, while offering cultivators access to a varied genetic pool, helping them increase genetic variety.

Furthermore, as the cannabis and hemp industry continues to evolve, we will see a market that comes under increasingly strict regulations. Tissue banking and other tissue culture methods allow cultivators to preserve quality genes, and to grow plants with gene profiles that can be compliant under regulations, while still satiating the market demand for safe and high-quality products.

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