ExSitu C. Afghanica Indigenous Landrace Biodiversity Regeneration Project

Indigenous native local heirloom landrace cannabis: Preserving, protecting & regenerating our collective shared living genetic heritage

Our Call To Action:

For the past 36+ years (since 1987), a dedicated and highly-regarded cannabis breeder and landrace preservationist has been carefully preserving and maintaining several genetically- and historically-significant indigenous native local heirloom landrace Cannabis ssp. Afghanica varieties (aka strains/cultivars) obtained (in late 1980s) from the geographic center of one of the two main primary cannabis gene pools. However, circumstances are such that our breeder/ preservationist can no longer carry on the good work at this location (to preserve & maintain these precious heirloom cannabis varieties) as in years past.

Enough foundation seed-stock exists (for each of these 3 legacy indigenous strains) where the genetic diversity has been carefully preserved – for now – but time is running out: as our breeder / preservationist has not been able to carry out a preservation/breeding run on some of these strains for a few years now, the surviving seeds that remain, are beginning to age and are approaching the outer limits of their lifespan / window of viability – where if these seedlines are not properly regenerated soon, the global cannabis community runs the risk of yet another bundle of precious foundational legacy cannabis genetics, being lost forever…

And so a collaboration was formed (partly in response to our call-to-action in our Landraces & Local Ecotypes Primer), for cannabis and biodiversity lovers to band together and forge a collective community effort to help preserve & regenerate these precious heirloom genetics. And thus the ExSitu C. Afghanica Indigenous Landrace Biodiversity Regeneration Project was born…

Why It Matters:

These 3 indigenous heirloom cannabis varieties (carefully preserved & maintained since 1987) represent some of the last surviving original pure (undiluted-genetics) seedlines from one of cannabis’s two main primary gene pools, which has been determined to be in threatened status aka of critical conservation concern, due to widespread genetic erosion (of global cannabis gene pool), external contamination/dilution of local landrace indigenous genetics, and the recent initiation of large-scale wild cannabis eradication program by new local regime in the indigenous native region.

“The astonishing diversity of the cannabis gene pool is a precious living heritage and we are its custodians. We must concentrate our efforts to collect, preserve, characterize and utilize the remaining Cannabis genetic resources before it is too late.

As the worldwide reduction in Cannabis diversity continues, the importance of genetic preservation becomes more obvious and critical. The Cannabis gene pool is amazingly diverse, but it needs our help as growers and consumers:

In the words of the Hopi elders,
“Now is the 11th hour…
now is the time to act!”

The Genetics aka Indigenous Heirloom Landrace Varieties aka Strains:

The first three strains / varieties we’re preserving & regenerating are:

  • * Jalalabad Star (from Salang Pass region / Afghanistan)
  • * Chitral Precious (from Mingora Swat region / Pakistan)
  • * Pakistan Treasure (from Balochistan / Khyber Pass region / Pakistan)
  • * (More info about these varieties)

Our Mission:

  • * Conserve and regenerate cannabis genetic diversity & germplasm
  • * Develop landrace heirloom indigenous-varietal products & markets for landrace indigenous varieties
  • * Increase consumer awareness and appreciation of the many benefits of biodiversity

Our Project:

We will be conducting 6 different breeding/regeneration/seed-production runs, 2 runs for each variety, each type of breeding/seed-production run has a different goal and end-product/deliverable:

Stabilize & Improve:

A portion of the remaining seeds (of each of the 3 strains/seedlines) will be used to perform a “traditional / conventional” cannabis strain stabilization-&-improvement breeding run. These “stabilize & improve” breeding runs will produce fresh seed stock for our upcoming “Growers Choice” line of gear, intended for commercial cultivators, caregivers and most hobby/homegrowers. (This Growers Choice line will carry forward the same high level of quality & consistency as ExSitu’s original line of gear / strains that is being used as our foundation breeding stock.)

Preserve & Regenerate Genetic Diversity:

We will also be conducting a Biodiversity Regeneration breeding run for each variety, these Regeneration Runs have been designed according to the latest ecological research including new international guidelines for restoring & regenerating the genetic diversity of indigenous plants.

(While the “Stabilize & Improve” breeding runs are commercially valuable as they will soon be pumping fresh production-grade product into the market & global genepool, from a genetic-diversity perspective, the act/approach of conventional breeding involves inbreeding I.e. a decrease in genetic diversity. The total # of seed-stock remaining for these strains is dwindling dangerously close to the “genetic bottlenecking” zone where it is imperative that the remaining genetic diversity in these seedlines be preserved and regenerated as soon as possible before the remaining seeds degrade/lose viability.)

Thus the “Biodiversity Regeneration” runs, which will be conducted in almost opposite fashion/approach to most conventional breeding efforts: Where the goal of conventional breeding efforts is to attenuate/limit genetic diversity, for these Regeneration runs our goal is to recreate/provide the same natural selective pressures that these genetics would encounter in-the-wild in their native regions/origin habitats, and encourage (via open-pollination) reproductive out-crossing and natural genetic recombination, just like Mother Nature would…

” Conservation biologists now recognize that a species must compete and evolve to have a viable future. Species do not exist in isolation, but as part of a larger ecological community. The community includes climate, soil, pollinators, dispersal agents, symbiotic species, competitors, pests, and pathogens. Species preservation efforts are now directed towards preservation of communities and habitats. In situ conservation is being given higher priority and the conservation focus is shifting back to the farm.

In situ (on-farm) conservation allows the continued evolution of plant characteristics. This is particularly important in regions susceptible to drought or other environmental extremes. It is under the conditions of environmental extremes that adaptation to stress occurs. And local adaptation plays a critical role in generating genetic differentiation amongst populations. The genetic diversity we know today evolved in varied and heterogeneous environments, in order to conserve genotypes we need to conserve a range of environmental conditions… “

Each Biodiversity Regeneration run is being conducted (via our team of trusted collaborators with support from our breeder technical advisory team) outdoors in a region that’s as close of a match as possible to the environmental conditions of each variety’s native local origin habitat/region/terroir. The key parameters used in selecting our Regeneration sites include latitude (degrees North of equator), humidity & climate, terrain (elevation/altitude, soil type/terroir), and also local logistical/crop-safety factors.

Our goal is to recreate, as closely as possible, an outdoor native landrace in-the-wild cannabis patch and let our plants get it on just like Mother Nature would:

Plants will be planted (in-ground) in similar terrain as origin habitat, in a manner that replicates natural plant spacing / dispersion patterns found in wild naturally-distributed populations. Thus providing the full range of natural selection / adaptive pressures found in native habitat.

The size of each Biodiversity Regen Run is being planned based on Florabank Guidelines (Florabank = international biodiversity/ecology/seed-saver science consortium) for maintaining genetic diversity in indigenous plant populations (a breeding population requires a minimum # of individuals to maintain genetic diversity) and also the size of each Regeneration run/grow is contingent on the # of surviving/viable seeds available. Current plans are for each Regeneration Run to contain ~ 50-100 plants.

The output of each Biodiversity Regeneration Run will be a fresh batch of genetically-diverse seed-stock (for our Biodiversity Blend product line) which we hope will achieve a similar high level of genetic richness as any remaining wild landrace populations/patches that may still exist in native origin regions/habitats. The technical term for this type of genetically-diverse seedstock is “breeders grex” and will be valuable for breeders and hobbyists hunting for new, unusual and/or unique as-yet-untapped traits. This Breeders Grex / Biodiversity Blend will also help replenish local gene banks including breeder’s original foundation stock (the last of which was generously given up for this project).

Proactive risk management:

As our Biodiversity Regeneration sites will be outdoors and relatively rugged, and especially since there are not many seeds left to work with, we will be proactive with monitoring and protecting the health and safety / survival of the plants (proactive measures include soil testing, organic/biodynamic soil amendments, organic pest prevention & control. Depending on how each genetic responds to local conditions, other proactive measures that could be required = potential need for light dep (physical regulation of flowering-cycle to maximize seed production) and possibly frost-protection and/or severe-weather protection (at least 1 of our strains is from a region prone to monsoons/heavy weather and so is its regeneration region/site. While cannabis as a whole is a resilient hardy survivor including in many tropical/storm-prone regions, since these genetics are rare/limited-supply, and also since global climate is growing increasingly unstable, we will take active steps to protect our plants if severe weather should threaten any of our Regen runs / sites… This ups the management/manpower factor and also the resources/gear required to support each Regen Run.)

Project Timeline & Current Status:

The surviving foundation seed stock has been safely conveyed to the Motor City Seeds main vault. One Biodiversity Regeneration Site / strain has already been selected / slotted (in region of southeastern US that has similar grow parameters as origin region of Mingora Swat, Pakistan). The foundation-stock handoff happened a bit too late in the season for the outdoor regeneration runs to happen this year (2023), our 3 outdoor Biodiversity Regen runs will commence at beginning of next upcoming season (spring 2024).

The 3 Stabilize & Improve breeding runs are being conducted in a fully-equipped indoor breeding facility. Final preparations are underway, we plan to begin these indoor breeding runs in 4th Quarter 2023. A proper stabilize-&-improve effort requires at least 3 generations / breeding / grow cycles, we expect the finished/fully-stabilized seedlines to be ready sometime in 2024. At the conclusion of each breeding generation we’ll offer a limited “Breeders Choice Early Release” drop of seeds, which means the first seed (& pollen) output from this project will begin shipping after the 1st indoor breeding run/cycle.

Project Team:

ExSitu C. Afghanica Indigenous Landrace Biodiversity Regeneration Project is a global collective cooperative collaboration being led by ExSitu & Motor City Seeds, with dedicated technical advisory and grow/site support from:

  • • MTF Jeff Wells (owner/founder of Alaska Built Seeds & MTF Genetics Lab, 40+ yr cannabis breeder, international cannabis cultivation consultant)
  • • Richard, breeder for Vagabond Seeds (breeder of heirloom locally-acclimatized landrace varieties with extensive experience in outdoor breeding, genetics preservation & refinement, natural/open-pollination methods, and organic seed production)
  • • The Da Ma Collective 大麻 (global advisor on cannabis hemp genetics, therapeutics & sustainability)
  • • The Cannabis Man (a bona-fide Cannabis Superhero who champions & supports Veterans, Cannabis Refugees, CannaFamilies, and the sacramental use of nature’s oldest & safest medicine. The Cannabis Man (aka TCM) is a longtime collaborator, sponsor & honorary lifetime member of The Da Ma Collective. TCM is hosting & providing site support for our inaugural Biodiversity Regeneration run. Teamwork Makes The Dream Work!💪)

How You Can Help / Support Our Work:

This ambitious pioneering initiative to preserve and regenerate our collective cannabis genetic heritage will require the support of the cannabis- & biodiversity-loving community to help make it happen: each of our collaborators will need to contribute significant levels of up-front energy (time, money, personal risk, physical resources & extra human-power/labor) many months before seeing a return on their investment- we’d love for the collective cannabis- and biodiversity-loving community to step up and help cover some of the up-front costs needed to get our Biodiversity Regeneration projects underway – if you’ve read this far then we’re hoping our mission resonates and that you’ll step up & support our work:

Other ways to help support our work:

  • * Buy stickers, fresh headgear & special limited-edition collectible ExSitu/RegenProject artwork! [currently at the printer, coming/available soon…]
  • * Share on social media and/or with like-minded friends!
  • * Sponsor our project by donating gear! (please Contact Us if you’d like to donate gear and/or become a project sponsor)
  • * Sign up for our mailing list to receive periodic updates on our biodiversity regeneration work
  • * We will start offering pre-orders and subscription/collectors bundles (for the upcoming batches of new seeds) as production/breeding schedules are finalized. (Sign up for our mailing list to stay in-the-know…)
  • * Learn more about our mission & values
  • * Learn more about regenerative agriculture, landraces & dynamic accumulators
  • * All donors will receive an entry (if desired) for one of our upcoming giveaway contests. If we ever start offering perks to future donors, early donors will get perks too 🙂 (If you choose to donate anonymously, then please save your receipt/payment confirmation and contact us – private channels available – to make arrangements for entering contest &/or getting you your perks..)

Donations will be used for:

  • * proactive risk management / crop protection gear & supplies (severe-weather protection, light-dep/frost-protection gear, etc.)
  • * organic / biodynamic / regenerative gardening supplies for optimal health, vitality & productivity of these precious plants (supplies needed to help support 3 outdoor grows of up to 100 plants each: soil amendments, organic pest control etc.)
  • * up-front costs to design/produce the 1st set of new product packaging, locally-produced artwork, labels, headgear (t-shirts hats stickers/slaps etc.) (our breeder/landrace preservationist has exhausted his personal resources keeping these strains alive for the community so we’re asking community to return the love by helping cover the cost of creating the packaging/locally-designed artwork/etc. for his next new/regenerated batch of gear…)
  • * biodiversity education materials (we’re producing a set of scientifically-current and user-friendly education materials for the community on best practices for maximizing genetic diversity in your grow/garden + your community)
  • * any surplus funds raised, or any extra supplies/gear remaining at conclusion of project, will be passed forward to others in need (medical caregiver co-ops, veterans groups/Wounded Warriors/etc., & other mission-driven initiatives that aim to improve the collective ecological & social well-being…)

Many Thanks // United We Stand :

Updated September 7, 2023