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27 May 2021

Super Cropping Cannabis to Increase Yield

In the world of cannabis growing, there are numerous tips and tricks to alter the typical growth pattern of your plants and achieve better yields. These are commonly known as training techniques, and there are two varieties: high-stress training (HST) techniques and low-stress training (LST) techniques. 

Here we’ll discuss super cropping, a commonly-used high-stress training technique that forces your plants to redirect growth hormones and energy into lower and side branches, enabling the plant to “bush out” or create denser, more rich foliage capable of supporting larger, more potent buds come harvest time.

What is Super Cropping?

Super cropping is the practice of pinching and bending stalks and branches of your plant without damaging the limb’s exterior tissues. A fairly common practice, super cropping is usually done during vegetative growth and has been shown to be effective at spurring on new lower growth. As a result, these lower branches eventually develop into strong stalks capable of supporting larger buds come the flowering stage.

Super cropping effectively curbs the “apical dominance” of the marijuana plant. Apical dominance refers to the general growth pattern of the cannabis plant, a pattern that produces one main growing tip, the apical tip, and lower branches that receive less energy. This pattern of growth is what gives cannabis plants their Christmas tree-like appearance.

Typically, growers will bend the central, apical stalk during super cropping. However, some growers, particularly when dealing with a well-established plant in the vegetative stage, may opt to bend and pinch some lower branches as well, particularly if they are inhibiting the penetration of light to lower stalks and bud sites. This is particularly important when working indoors under grow lights, as not to waste any light energy.

Why Super Crop Cannabis?

It’s easy to want to deal with your marijuana plants with kid gloves, never touching, rustling or disturbing them. It makes sense, after all: you’ve worked so hard to get them to where they are, and they’re starting to look happy and fill out. You’re anticipating the beautiful main cola forming at the top of your plant, and yet here you are being told to grab that beauty by the stalk and bend it in half until it nearly breaks. What for?

We must think of super cropping in terms of natural, native growth to understand its true purpose. In nature, marijuana plants react to stress in different ways, their primary defence being the production of psychoactive resin laden with THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, meant to ward off predation.

This immune response is essentially what the cannabis growers are aiming to trigger by implementing high-stress training techniques such as super cropping. Triggering this response will help plants produce more vigorous growth, including sending out secondary shoots and developing lower bud sites.

Super cropping also enables the grower to alter the direction of their plant’s growth. Similar to some LSTs, such as tying and bending, super cropping offers the grower the opportunity to hold down some of their plant’s branches with zip ties, duct tape or plant stakes, forcing the plant to redirect energy in the direction the grower determines.

This makes super cropping a natural choice for growers working indoors and makes it particularly well-suited for SCROG (screen of green), SOG (sea of green), and various hydroponics applications, such as deep water culture, where a single plant is prominent in the setup.

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How Super Cropping Works

When super cropping, a grower typically will use their fingers and possibly a bit of duct or masking tape to help support the branches once they’ve been bent. Often, the branch or stalk is rolled in the grower’s fingers with a bit of firm and even pressure.

Once applied, this pressure will cause the inner tissue of the plant to break and soften, an effect which can be noted by the slight tearing or popping sound produced by the damage. Typically, the branch is bent to a 90-degree angle, then, using a tie-down, is held in place to allow the inner tissue damage to heal, typically three to four days.

When super cropping marijuana, it is crucial not to damage the outer layers of the plant’s stalks or branches. Tearing or damaging the exterior tissue of the plant can create openings through which various microbes or pests can enter. If the outer tissue is damaged, the tape may come in handy for sealing any openings or tears. Tape may also be used to support the sites where the bending occurred, as the limbs will be exceedingly fragile and limp immediately following super cropping.

After a few days, the site of the super cropping will begin healing. The influx of cells will help generate a large knot, or “knuckle”, as they’re sometimes called, where the bending took place. This knuckle will be capable of supporting more weight and higher yields than a small stalk alone, as well as bearing the advantage of offering the grower the chance to “aim” their plant’s growth; that is, they can direct which direction the plant will continue to grow by tying down branches.

A well-cropped plant is truly a sight to behold. Knuckles form at super cropped sites, creating a strong, dense stalk capable of supporting bigger yields and transporting additional nutrients throughout the plant. As a result, growth is faster, denser, and sturdier than plants that have not been super cropped.

With all of these apparent advantages, one might ask why every grower does not super crop their marijuana plants. While there are many advantages, super cropping is not the right fit for everyone.

For example, growers working outdoors and without the worry of discovery may choose not to super crop their plants as they prefer to let their plants develop naturally and without interference. Super cropping may be best suited for indoor growers or growers limited by space, such as those working indoors with large sativa or autoflowering strains.

Super cropping cannabis technique used to increase yield

Super Cropping vs Other LST and HST Methods

Super cropping offers several advantages over other low- and high-stress training techniques, such as bending or topping. While it is considered a high-stress training technique, it is also not as radical as some of the others lumped into this category. While super cropping may be a perfect HST technique for some, it may not be as well-suited for others. Depending on your application and setup, you may opt to employ other training techniques.

Bending is one of the most common and popular LST techniques. Bending is just as it sounds: branches and limbs are bent and held in place by clips, zip ties, or string. Typically, bending occurs without the destruction of the interior plant fibres that we find in super cropping. Instead, branches are gently bent and anchored to a point, such as the growing medium or the plant’s container, and allowed to continue their normal development.

While this method does well to introduce light to the lower limbs and budsites of a plant, it is not as effective as super cropping for promoting increased yields. The knuckles formed by super cropping support greater weight and transport nutrients more effectively than standard branches and stalks alone.

Other popular HST techniques worth comparison are topping and fimming. When topping, a grower will remove the entire new growth from the main stem of the plant, causing the plant to send up two shoots where there had previously been one. When fimming, a grower will remove the majority of new growth, leaving intact a bit at the bottom. This practice promotes the generation of multiple shoots, leading to increased branching and a greater number of bud sites.

By contrast, super cropping will not change the number of shoots but will increase the voracity of the shoots already present. The act of bending and securing the upper limbs will allow greater light penetration and lead to stronger, more prevalent stalks and stems.

Of course, choosing the correct LST or HST technique depends entirely upon the grower and the circumstance. There’s no substitute for careful research and consideration when deciding on a technique.

Super cropping is a fun and interesting way to see what your marijuana plants are capable of. It’s a really great testament to the heartiness of the cannabis plant, as it demonstrates clearly the plant’s tendency and ability to heal itself while also regenerating with more strength than it previously possessed. In addition, it will signal to your plant to ramp up its resin production and start pumping out those milky trichomes.

Be sure to check out Marijuana Grow Shop’s excellent selection of cannabis seeds, as well as our grow blog for continually updated growing information to help you maximize your yields!

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Post author
Martin
Martin is a production horticulturist with experience in commercial cannabis cultivation and sustainable farming from his time with Emerald Cup Award-winning farmers Esensia Gardens in northern California's Emerald Triangle.
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