In a lot of horticultural and agricultural growing operations, planting crops from seeds takes at least a month to six weeks long to germinate. Cloning has changed the industry in such a way that you can produce faster and consistently. Mother plant stock is the basis of any successful operation, but they don’t last forever, so you might be wondering if a clone can be a mother plant too?
Clones can be mother plants. They are no different from the mother plant they originate from, to begin with. Genetically they are identical and will be able to produce several clones every couple of weeks. Clones as mother plants will guarantee the reproduction of your crops stay consistent.
Clones as mother plants are a valuable asset to plant and food growers, and they take cuttings from these clones to reproduce harvests timeously and yield consistency. Clones as mother plants are kept in a constant vegetative state as you cannot clone them in their flowering or fruiting stage. A clone will always be the same age as the original mother plant, and perennial clones can be kept for several years on the condition that their habitat is optimal.
How Many Clones Can A Mother Plant Produce?
A healthy clone that is marked as a mother can, in essence, produce limitless clones. Even if you clone a clone continuously, each clone will have the same genetic potential after the first. They will be able to grow fruits and flowers of the same quality as the original mother. So how many cuttings can you take from one clone?
Depending on the size, species, and age of the plant you intend to harvest cuttings from, you can consider the following things;
- Age of the clone. You can take 2 – 3 clones at a time from a small plant and up to 30 cuttings from a plant that is 4 to 6 years old.
- The health of the clone. A clone that you turned into a mother plant needs to show resistance to diseases such as pests and fungi to ensure a healthy clone.
- The lifespan of the clone. Plants such as annuals might only be able to produce 3 to 4 viable clones in its year, as the clones will start to regress with every new clone. Perennial clones tend to stay healthier much longer and are genetically more robust.
- Size of the clone. You can take many more cuttings from a big, bushy plant than from a smaller, less foliaged plant.
Clones typically root within 14 days, and you can expect to take the first cutting from that clone in about six to eight weeks after rooting has been established.
How To Select A Clone As A Mother Plant
The process of growing for profit is fast-paced and pressured. Suppose you have a home grow operation mainly used to sustain your family. In that case, the selection process will be more straightforward as you might have fewer choices regarding genetic stock or varieties. Selecting clones for mothers can be done as follows;
- Health. The general health of your mother will determine the future health of each clone and subsequent clones. Choose the healthiest plants that you have available.
- Conformity. Choose a mother that conforms to all the genetic standards. Look for leaves that are large and well-formed, straight stems, and beautiful coloration.
- Gender. Depending on your plant production line, males will always be males, and females will always be females when you clone. Keep that in mind, as most clones are usually females for flowering and fruiting. Female clones do not need pollination to produce flowers or fruit.
- Vegetative state. Choose a mother to clone that has been kept in a vegetative state. Your clones will also be in a vegetative state until you allow them to flower or fruit. Before you clone some perennials, they need to have been in a vegetative state for at least two or more months.
- Genetics. Suppose you are growing plants for medicinal use. In that case, you will want to select the very best in genetics, as many naturopathic health shops only buy from growers that have their plants certified organic and chemical-free.
Can You Clone A Plant Too Many Times?
This is a highly debatable idea; how many clones would be too many. Unlike plants naturally grown through pollination and seed germination, cloning cuts out a few developmental stages, so there is no doubt decline can set in. Annuals that only live for one year will produce good clones in the first year. Those clones will create weaker clones the following year, and so it will decline in genetic viability.
In perennial clone mothers, this degradation will only become noticeable a few generations later as they start becoming genetically weaker with no new genetic input through cross-pollination. Plants have to fight off insects, diseases, and environmental stresses continuously, and as the clones become weaker, that will become harder for the next generation of clones to do.
The best time to clone your mother plant will be when it has been in its vegetative state for at least two months, and you can take cuttings from your clone every four to six weeks and allow a rest period in between. Following an adequate feeding regiment will ensure firm root and leaf development. The more robust your mother plant, the more clones you can produce.
It would be sensible to replace the clones you use as a mother plant every few seasons with new genetically healthy stock. This will ensure consistently superior harvests.
What Is Epigenetics? How Does It Affect My Clones?
Epigenetics can be explained as follows; it is a series of exterior modifications or stimuli that can turn the genes on or off. It does not alter the genetic code in clones, but environmental factors modify the genetic expression and more significant potential.
The impact of epigenetics on the general health of clones can be quite significant. A clone mother plant will quickly lose vigor without getting proper mineral nutrients. This will undoubtedly reduce the clone mother plant’s viability to reproduce healthy clones in the next harvest.
There is a heated debate around this subject and whether or not it can indeed influence or alter the DNA to such an extent in plant clones.
Are Clones As Good As Seeds?
Growing any plant from a seed is not only rewarding; you are getting the complete genetic makeup and all of the defenses the plant needs in one small package. The plant grown from seed can, for apparent reasons, yield a lot more than a cloned plant.
Cloned plants are unable to produce a tap root naturally seen in plants grown from seeds. This root anchors the plant in nature and allows it to take up water and nutrients from deep underground. The slower development of a seed-grown plant will enable it to develop as nature intended. The full immune system will be fully designed to help it fight disease. Most outdoor or open ground growers prefer to grow their mother plants from seed for this reason.
However, indoor growers do not have to worry about a tap root system as most of their mother plants and clones are grown in containers. They will never be exposed to natural weather conditions or natural pests and fungi. The diseases they get are either introduced through human contact or the artificial climate that is not appropriately controlled.
Clones make excellent mother plants. Genetically you know what to expect from your future plants. The harvest of whatever you are growing will be consistently successful, and you will meet your client’s expectations without a doubt.
Growing a mother plant from seeds will give you the best possible genetics and disease defense systems, but your harvesting will take longer, and it is costly to buy seeds all the time. Cloning a healthy and robust specimen to become a next-generation cloned mother plant will allow you to increase your yield capacity significantly. Your clone mother plant can be reproduced at no cost several times a season for many more years.
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