Plant Training: The Grower’s Guide to Optimizing Crop Yields

Published: February 23, 2022

Whether you’re trying to improve your harvest or simply working on increasing your field’s canopy, you need to do more than just plant feeding.

Farmers have consistently struggled with how to increase crop yields. Their concerns ranged from methods to boost harvests to finding the best ways to address yield-influencing environmental factors. 

The need for functional solutions rose even further as global food security worsened and the world became more aware of hemp as a practical alternative to various resources. 

Thankfully, solutions have been found, with innovation bringing forth technologies and ways that called to the issues at hand, offering redemption to the fields and relief to agrarians. 

One of these solutions is “Plant Training.”

PLANT TRAINING

Cannabis growers have often used plant training techniques to manipulate and improve plant performances. And, since most of these systems require just a little bit of practice, many have mastered the trick to achieving stronger, bushier plants with excellent yields. 

Surprising as this might seem, the centuries-old, genetically-based system relies on a single fundamental tenet: the application of stress to trigger natural plant responses. However, the results of this principle might vary per the technique applied.

WHY YOU SHOULD TRAIN CANNABIS

Plant training is among the easiest and most natural ways of enhancing cannabis production. It promotes less reliance on agrochemicals and ensures progression towards more sustainable practices. 

Highlighted below are a few areas in which plant training can be employed:

– Lighting: 

This perk is especially beneficial to the cannabis plant because it grows in a “Christmas tree” manner. As a result of its unique canopy pattern, its lower shoots often get minimal/poor light exposure. Thus, vertically controlling plant growth ensures all leaves have adequate light exposure for better biomass production. 

– Quality Improvement:

The principal purpose of plant training is generating big-league yields. Each technique aims at increasing the overall size and quality of harvest by creating additional flowering sites, focusing resources on those sites, and stressing the plant to induce hormone production and growth. 

– Improved Harvesting Process: 

An organized growth space is a happy one. Plant training facilitates harvest by minimizing confusion, back bending, and stress. Also, every farmer can hone in on this technique because limiting peripheral growth lowers the chances of mold formation from implicating humidity levels. 

– Airflow Inflow:

Ventilation is a crucial yet often overlooked sect of cultivation. Proper air inflow is critical to keeping your plants nourished with the optimal CO2 levels, as well as keeping fungal infections like powdery mildew at bay. 

Thus, with plant training, growers can improve air circulation within systems, refresh vital gas levels in their plants, and keep moisture levels low enough to prevent hydrophilic infections.

TYPES OF PLANT TRAINING

According to expert growers, implementing a plant training technique could bump your yields up by an incredible 40%. ithout investing in expensive automation tools, you can still make a great harvest – with either of these extensive plant training techniques: Low Stress and High-Stress Training.

Low-Stress Training (LST)

This form is one of the most basic techniques guaranteed to give impressive results. As a result, LSTs are also often included as start-offs in several other training methods. 

In Low-Stress Training, the goal is to “bend” tall stems well away from the middle so that as the plant grows, it takes on a flatter, broader form (better canopy).

FUN FACT:

“Bending” redirects growth hormones from the tip of the main stem (apical meristem) to the rest of the branches. This action tricks the plant into developing its secondary shoots faster. 

* When should I start LST?

Low-Stress Training is best performed on young and malleable stems to prevent the branches from snapping during manipulation. However, it is essential to wait until the plant shows at least 4-6 growth nodes. 

Trellis Netting

This is not an LST itself but a vital tool in the performance of some LST techniques. Mostly made of either rigid, non-porous plastic for outdoor cultivation or soft nylon for indoor cultivation, its primary function is to offer horizontal and vertical support for the plants.

  • Screen of Green (ScrOG)

This is an excellent example of an LST. ScrOG is usually performed to maximize lighting, especially in indoor growing systems. 

Here, trellis nets help support the stems as they grow, even as the grower bends them to promote a broader canopy. Bending also ensures the plant parts are neither too close nor far from the grow lights in indoor cultivation systems.

Note:

 “Not all trellis net placement makes a Screen of Green.”

High-Stress Training (HST)

While pruning marks the basis of most HSTs, not all HST techniques involve pruning and these are often just as beneficial as those with advanced pruning. 

Pruning is the percipient removal of buds, branches, foliage, and roots to shape the plants, improve their health, and boost yields. 

Due to the stressful nature of the process, it is essential to work in moderation and with clean or sterilized tools only. Doing so helps to avoid exposing the plants to diseases and pests in their most vulnerable state. 

  • Super Cropping/Stem Mutilation

This is one HST technique that does not involve pruning. It instead involves a somewhat “extreme” form of bending and is often used on woody stems that are too tall and have become difficult to bend. 

Super cropping is best started in the early vegetative phase (with some visibly healthy branches) and involves damaging the inner tissue of the stem without breaking its skin. 

Although LST and super cropping seem to revolve around the same technique, their very significant differences lie within the age of the plant and the extent to which the branch is “manipulated.”

  • Topping

This technique involves cutting a growing shoot off the stem (pruning) and works best on young plants (4-6 visible nodes, at a minimum). 

Often conducted on the main stem (apical meristem), topping shifts growth hormones to secondary shoots; thereby, incentivizing a double effect: two new sprouts from the cut main stem and a growth spurt in the secondary shoots.  

It is okay to top severally as long as the secondary stems are allowed enough time to recover. However, as you top, the weight of each node consistently diminishes, and the process would become less productive with each session. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Plant training or not, the plants will flower so long as the growing conditions permit. However, integrating techniques that promise up to a 40% yield increase is a very tempting concept. 

If you are new to this and would like to try it, we advise starting with Low-Stress Techniques before evolving to High-Stress types. You already have a lot invested in your field; why not make the most of it with these yield-boosting techniques?

Author: Deborah Agboola, Content Editor at Mariposa Technology

About Mariposa Technology

Putting Power & Profits Into The Farmer’s Hands

At Mariposa Technology, we are developing a revolutionary protocol for rapid, in-field testing of industrial and pharmacological hemp. By utilizing a handheld Raman Spectroscopy device, paired with our proprietary database, we will provide affordable, accurate and immediate test results. Our technology will bring the power of self-testing to farmers at a fraction of the price of traditional laboratory testing while also guaranteeing their digital farming experience optimizes their profits. Moreover, our technology will drastically reduce the carbon footprint of the hemp industry at large.

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