Indica plants are characterized as short and bushy with broad, dark green leaves, which make them somewhat harder to see from afar. They nearly always mature quite early outdoors, from late August to early October, often stand only 1-2 m (36 ft.) tall at maturity, and produce copious resin-covered flowers and leaflets. At least several dozen introductions of indica were made during the middle to late 1970s. Afghani No.1 and Hindu Kush were among the early indica introductions that gained notoriety and are still available today. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, many additional introductions were made from Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan.
Marijuana breeders intentionally crossed varieties of early-maturing indica with their later-maturing sativa varieties to produce early-maturing hybrid crosses (matings of parents from different gene pools), and soon the majority of cultivators began to grow the newly popular indica x sativa hybrids. Many of the indica x sativa hybrids were vigorous growers, matured earlier, yielded well, and were very potent. Skunk No. 1 is a good example of a hybrid expressing predominantly sativa traits, and Northern Lights is a good example of a hybrid expressing predominantly indica traits. By the early 1980s, the vast majority of all domestic sinsemilla in North America had likely received some portion of its germplasm from the indica gene pool, and it had become difficult to find the preindica, pure sativa varieties that had been so popular only a few years earlier.
However, the negative characteristics of reduced potency (lower THC content); slow, flat, sedative, dreary effect (high CBD content); skunky, acrid aroma; and harsh taste quickly became associated with many indica x sativa hybrids. To consumers, who often prefer sativas, indica has not proven itself to be as popular as it is with growers. Also, the dense, tightly packed floral clusters of indica tend to hold moisture and to develop gray mold (Botrytis), for which the plants have little natural resistance. Mold causes significant losses, especially in outdoor and glasshouse crops, and was rarely a problem when only pure C. sativa varieties were grown. In addition, fungal contamination of medical Cannabis could prove a serious threat to pulmonary or immunocompromised patients. Although consumers and commercial cultivators of the late 1970s initially accepted indica enthusiastically, serious breeders of the late 1980s began to view indica with more skepticism. Although indica may currently appear to be a growing bane for Cannabis connoisseurs, it has certainly been a big boon for the average consumer, bringing more potent and medically effective Cannabis to a wider audience. Indica x sativa hybrids have proven to be well adapted to indoor cultivation where mold is rarely a problem. Indica x sativa varieties mature quickly (60-80 days of flowering), allowing four to five harvests per year, and can yield up to 100 g of dry flowers on plants only 1 m (3 ft.) tall. C. sativa varieties are too gangly and tall and take too long to mature to make them desirable for the indoor grower. On the other hand, sativas have unique cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles producing effects considered superior by many medical Cannabis users.
Political pressure on marijuana cultivators across North America forced many drug Cannabis breeders to relocate to the Netherlands, where the political climate was less threatening. During the 1980s, several marijuana seed companies appeared in the Netherlands, where cultivation of Cannabis for seed production and the sale of seeds were tolerated. To North American and European cultivators, this meant increased availability of exotic high-quality drug Cannabis seeds and presented yet more possibilities to find varieties that were the most medically effective for individual indications and patients. Cannabis seed sales continue in the Netherlands today.
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