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Plant Tissue Culture

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Each outgoing plantlet is verified with our industry-leading DNA Fingerprinting process and exclusive somaclonal variation detection to ensure that the cultivar you want is the cultivar you get.

Segra offers a full range of PTC services that help to identify and protect IP, regenerate aging and diseased cultivars, diversify your product offering, or replace your mother room altogether.

Reduce Risk, Increase Efficiency and Profitability

(PTC) “Stage III plantlets”—tiny, laboratory-produced young plants—are created using a technological process proven to offer superior pathogen-resistance and greater crop uniformity than conventional vegetative propagation.

They are ready to plant and shipped around the world, eliminating the complication and expense of young plant propagation.

REGENERATE AND PRESERVE

Plants reproduced through traditional vegetative propagation naturally see diminished performance over time. Segra's proprietary regeneration process removes disease and restores vigor, then securely stores your clean specimens. They are ready for your exclusive use for future plantlet production, research or breeding.

Successful initiation into tissue culture takes between 5 and 10 months, after which cultivars can be preserved and maintained indefinitely.

Your valuable cultivars are protected and available whenever you need them, ensuring continuity of your business, no matter what.

DISCOVERY PROGRAM

Portions of Segra’s unparalleled cultivar library are now available for test drive. Whether you are looking to quickly satisfy the latest demand, want to add a new dimension to your portfolio or are looking to respond to a specific growing need, collaborate with our team to try one of Segra’s genetics for a low-risk introduction to PTC technology.

FULL PLANTLET PROVISION

Mother stock faces natural diminishment over time, but growers don’t have to settle for diminished results. With our mother stock provision plan, choose from the full selection of Segra’s public collections or draw from your own genetics for a program that will provide continual refreshment of your in-house mother plant production programs. Focus your resources on productive plants, not on nursing mother plants.

MOTHER STOCK PROVISION

Leave mother plants and cloning production behind and step into the future of cannabis propagation with a fully PTC-based model, available to licensed producers globally on a recurring schedule.

Use your own genetics, or sample from Segra’s library—either way, you get disease-free, vigorous plantlets ready at scale, when you need them. Free up time and canopy space that is typically dedicated to mother plant propagation and move into Segra’s highest level of service.

Opportunities present themselves, problems arise, and solutions are found. The story of cannabis plant  tissue culture follows that same cadence.  But what exactly is plant tissue culture? How was it developed? Why is it crucial to the rapidly expanding cannabis industry? The early adopters of this biotechnology have seen the countless benefits related to crop performance, pathogen management, and mitigation of operational risks through genetic banking. The use of plant  tissue culture technologies will continue to proliferate as the cannabis industry enters the most competitive time it has seen since the inception of commercial production. 

Plant  tissue culture is a broad term that refers to the in vitro growth of plant cells under defined physical and chemical conditions. It can be applied to a range of technologies and biological processes performed in vitro. The in vitro growth of plant cells can originate from a singular cell, a piece of leaf or stem tissue, or a seed placed in growth media. Some of the more common plant  tissue culture technologies are listed below: 

  • Anther Culture
  • Callus Culture
  • Meristem Culture
  • Organ Culture  
  • Organogenesis
  • Protoplast Culture
  • Somatic Embryogenesis
  • Seed Culture
  • Suspension Culture

These technologies categorize a series of different specializations and techniques used to research and produce clean, individual plantlets and are often used in combination with one another depending on the crop or product. To produce our clean-stock cannabis plantlets, Segra utilizes organ culture, meristem culture, and organogenesis. To understand the relevance of these specific processes in modern agricultural and horticultural practices, we must first understand how and why these technologies were developed. Click here to watch our webinar “The ABC’s of PTC.”

The idea of studying and growing plant cells in vitro was proposed by the German scientist Gottlieb Haberlandt in the early 1900’s[3]. Haberlandt studied the properties and interrelationships of individual cells within a multicellular organism and proposed that researchers could successfully propagate artificial embryos from individual vegetative plant cells[4]. Today, this process is referred to as “plant tissue culture micropropagation.” 

From the inception of Haberlandt’s theory and throughout the early to mid 1900’s, further development in new plant tissue culture emerged.  Augmentation of existing processes continued. Refinement of plant tissue culture media and discoveries of how various growth regulators work to influence the performance and development of plant cells occurred. These discoveries led to an understanding of the balance between auxin and cytokinin to influence the morphological structure of plants. A high ratio of auxin to cytokinin favours rooting, the opposite favours shoot development, and an intermediate mix of both favours the growth of wound parenchyma tissue (callus tissue)[5]. With the ability to direct the growth and development of a single vegetative plant cell into a fully developed multicellular plantlet equipped with leaves, shoots, and roots, scientists had the opportunity to begin growing plantlets at scale under sterile conditions. The cut flower industry demonstrated the significance of plant  tissue culture in the 1960’s when they developed protocols to initiate meristem shoot tips in tissue to produce virus-free orchids5, a discovery that scientists embraced as a solution for many other crops. 

The ability to distribute virus-free plants while leveraging logistical efficiencies attracted commercial agriculture companies. Today, plant tissue culture is used to produce a plethora of crops at scale, including potatoes, bananas, eggplants, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and more[6].  

With plant tissue culture, however, there is no facile solution for every plant species. Individualized agar growth media formulas and protocols need to be tailored not only to cannabis generally, but to each specific cultivar within the cannabis genome. When developing plant tissue culture protocols for a species, researchers must  develop plant tissue culture growth agar formulas and handling techniques for each specific cultivar as all have nuanced in vitro performance requirements. This presented a very time-consuming challenge for cannabis growth in plant tissue culture due to the inherent genetic diversity in the industry. In other commercially produced crops around the world such as strawberries or raspberries, approximately 5-10 main production cultivars are utilized globally. When approaching plant tissue culture for cannabis, thousands of varieties currently exist and consumer demand requires a constant flow of new cultivars. As a result, extensive research is required to successfully operate a cannabis plant tissue culture facility with the capabilities and expertise to tailor operating procedures for every new cultivar required for mass production. Segra has pioneered related research in the cannabis tissue culture and nursery space over the past four years.

The vast genetic variance existent in the cannabis genome causes another challenge that cannabis plant  tissue culture providers face: soma-clonal variation. Soma-clonal variation is a genetic variation observed within progeny created from somatic cells regenerated in vitro. Following the successful initiation of a cultivar in tissue culture, the cell’s DNA risk mutation into a distinct variant from original donor material. With cannabis higher than average rates of soma-clonal variation can be attributed to the broad genome and genetic instability that exists in the cannabis industry. It has been observed that some cultivars are more prone than others to soma-clonal variation, causing challenges when tailoring plant tissue culture protocols for specific cannabis cultivars. All cannabis plant tissue culture providers face these challenges, and it will take years of further research and development to fully overcome them. 

As a recognised leader in the cannabis tissue culture industry, Segra has studied these issues and developed unique proprietary protocols. These fall into three of the main technological categories of plant tissue culture: organ culture, meristem culture, and organogenesis. At the forefront of our protocols is pathogen identification and DNA fingerprinting using Variable Nucleotide Tandem Repeat (VNTR) technology. It’s an essential step in determining the correct cultivar ID and the proper plant tissue culture techniques to use on certain plant material, depending on the existing pathogen load. For instance, some pathogens can be removed using techniques that fall under the organ culture category. These techniques include a process called shoot-tip tissue culture, where anti-viral and sterilization agents are applied to multiple growth nodes of a cannabis plant to remove existent pathogens. Shoot-tip tissue culture, when performed properly, is often a fast and efficient way to clean and initiate plant material in tissue culture. 

For pathogens that cannot be removed using shoot-tip culture techniques, Segra employees meristem culture. This method isolates meristematic cells not yet vascularized within the plant and initiates them in the appropriate growth media. Meristematic plant tissue culture is the gold standard for effectively removing pathogens and producing clean plantlets with augmented production performance; however, this method can take significantly longer than shoot-tip plant tissue culture techniques to return a clean plantlet to a receiving cultivator ranging from 4-8 months for shoot-tip plant tissue culture and 8-12 months for meristem culture. Segra uses this method for every cultivar in its genetic library and the process is generally performed simultaneously with shoot-tip culture depending on initial pathogenic load and our client’s operational timeline for clean plantlet provisioning. 

Following the successful removal of pathogens, Segra then applies organogenesis techniques to rapidly multiply the clean population and return scaled plant tissue culture plantlets. Organogenesis is the practice of taking in vitro nodal cuttings from existing shoots within a cultivar population and multiplying them to larger inventories.  Throughout all of these plant  tissue culture processes, Segra uses the VNTR technology to test and monitor for any DNA mutations and soma-clonal variations that may occur during in vitro shootlet multiplication. DNA fingerprints for each individual cultivar are cross-referenced with the initial cultivar fingerprint to confirm that all plantlets shipped are true-to-type. This fingerprinting technology also helps identify the potential occurrence of soma-clonal variation, and can bolster track-and-trace technology.  

By implementing plant tissue culture technology that removes pathogens, prolongs storage capabilities, and augments plant performance, the industry will see a trend of improved finished product quality that will drive consumer demand in a positive direction. As plant tissue culture proves essential in the mass cultivation of cannabis, we can expect efficiencies to improve across the industry. Plant tissue culture service providers are emerging every day in new markets around the world, allowing the supply chain to mature in a manner that reflects what commercial agricultural companies of other established crops have done for decades. Cultivars are mass produced at a plant tissue culture laboratory, plantlets of those cultivars are sent to nurseries for hardening and initial vegetative growth, the matured plants are then sent to cultivators for final stages of growth and harvesting. This allows each member of the supply chain to hone their operational performance by allowing them to focus on what they do best. Whether you’re a nursery, a cultivator, or a consumer – if you start with clean and healthy inputs you can expect the highest of quality outputs. 

Other related links:

Webinar: The Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Breeding – Part 2”

Webinar: The Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Breeding – Part 2”

Webinar: “Know What You Grow – DNA Fingerprinting in Cannabis by VNTR”

Article:  Segra’s Regenerate and Preserve Program

[1] https://www.plantcelltechnology.com/blog/the-different-types-of-plant-tissue-culture/

[2] https://www.segra-intl.com/resources/the-ins-and-outs-of-tissue-culture-production

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0928342096800036

[4] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5931196_History_of_Plant_Tissue_Culture

[5] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5931196_History_of_Plant_Tissue_Culture

[6] https://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/pocketk/14/default.asp#:~:text=Plants%20important%20to%20developing%20countries,%2C%20sweet%20potato%2C%20and%20tomato

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