A Growers Guide: The Pros and Cons of Autoflowering and Feminized Seeds

Article Author: Atlas Seed
Article Posted: September 10, 2021

Feminized Autoflowering seeds are becoming a more sought after choice for both small scale recreational and large scale industrial growers for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason they are increasing in popularity is that genetic advancement in the last 5-10 years has finally made them a viable enough option to grow for serious hobbyists or commercial cultivators. 

Some of the first autoflowers legacy growers worked with, including low-rider and early girl autoflowering varieties, didn’t perform well enough for these varieties to catch on, and so a generation of growers developed a negative impression of day-neutral varieties.  Now that a new generation of hemp and cannabis breeders have brought autoflowering varieties to a market ready standard, it’s up to enterprising cultivators to weigh the benefits of incorporating them into their production model. In this article we will explore some of the pro’s and con’s of autoflowering and feminized seeds so that you can make a decision about what is best for your specific context. 

Pro’s of Feminized Autoflowering Seeds

    1. For many of the reasons listed below, growing cannabis outdoors (sun grown) in native soil from feminized autoflowering seed is the cheapest, most scalable biomass production solution available. 
    2. Day neutral varieties can be run in succession plantings like normal vegetable crops.  This is an enormous advantage for developing dynamic, resilient crop production plans.
    3. Large scale hybrid harvesting models are made all the more possible with autoflowering cannabis seed.  This would begin with a tops harvest meant for the finished, smokable flower market and conclude by pulling the rest of the bottoms / lowers for biomass. 
    4. Growing autoflowering seeds is the fastest method of turning a cannabis crop, which can be done in as little as 60 days with some of Atlas Seed’s faster finishing varieties. 
    5. It is possible to achieve 2-3 pulls per season of outdoor autoflowering cannabis in certain growing regions.  
    6. Day neutral cannabis doesn’t need a separate space where light length is controlled to prevent it from flowering.  In other words, it doesn’t need tarps pulled across green houses or hoop houses, and it doesn’t need to be in an indoor space with supplemental lighting.  It will begin flowering regardless of light cycle changes.
    7. Day neutral cannabis can be artfully combined in hybrid crop plans with full term plants in either greenhouses or outdoors to maximize the total potential of the growing environments. One can interplant them with full terms, as well as succession plant them.  
    8. Autoflowering cannabis can allow an outdoor grower in many environmentally hospitable states, such as California and Arizona, to bring a crop to market as early as June, when many other growers have photoperiod plants that have not initiated their flowering cycle by that time.  This early to market strategy can be the make or break between a highly profitable year and barely staying in the black.
    9. Growing feminized seeds will reduce the overall likelihood of having male plants in your grow.  With smaller scale operations of <2000 plants, it’s possible to completely remove males from your planting population.
    10. Operational efficiency is greatly enhanced by choosing to plant feminized seed.  From the cost of inputs like pots, soil, and nutrients; to saving valuable bench, greenhouse, and field space; to saving money on labor from uppotting and watering; eliminating males from your process at the beginning of a cultivation cycle, instead of months after regular cannabis plants show their sex, will greatly alleviate a number of operational inefficiencies that will save you time, money, and plenty of headache.  
    11. Direct seeding cannabis flower can only be done with feminized seed. It is possible and most probably optimal to grow regular, non-feminized Type III hemp at an industrial scale from seed, as pollinated hemp will be far less likely to test hot (>.3% THC), and can be mechanically harvested.  However, high potency Type I cannabis that’s been direct seeded in an outdoor growing environment needs to be feminized, as farmers can’t efficiently plant out their fields with regular seed only to come back many weeks or months later when plants have finally shown their sex and cut down half the crop

Cons of Feminized Autoflowering Seeds

    1. Many legacy or traditional growers like to be able to control the moment their cannabis initiates its flowering cycle.  With autoflowering cannabis, the only way you can control the timing of planting is by when you start the seed.  This could cause problems for certain cultivators in scenarios where they are facing stacking operational variables that throw off the timing of their available labor, equipment, infrastructure, and agricultural inputs.  
    2. Autoflowering plants are known to have a delicate or particular establishment period when they are beginning their race.  Therefore they do not take kindly to becoming root bound or any kind of transplant shock.  If mishandled during this phase, one’s yields can be decimated.  Plants may end up getting only 6-8 inches tall if they trigger into flowering earlier from becoming rootbound or being mishandled during the transplant step. .  
    3. Thus far, because autoflowering cannabis cannot compete with photoperiod plants terpene and cannabinoid levels, it has a harder time winning awe inspiring “bag appeal” reviews from brokers, distributors, and dispensary buyers in the finished flower market.  Therefore it can be harder to sell autoflowering cannabis in a flooded market, and it goes without saying that it doesn’t command as high a price for finished flower as a premium photoperiod plant does.