Cannabis Topping to Increase Yields
Topping, low stress training, supercropping, a sea of greenery and scrogging are a few of the training methods used by cannabis growers to control the overall shape of a plant. Tall varieties can be trained to grow up instead of up. Some growers cut off the top of the plant to make it shorter and bushier. When growing different varieties of cannabis indoors, in many cases cannabis training is required to keep the canopy as close to level as possible.
A popular technique often used in the garden is topping. Topping is the removal of the top of a plant. We understand that it can be a bit counterintuitive to remove the top of the plant; after all, that's where the big colas come from. While it sounds crazy, your yield potential increases when you remove the top.
Plant cover is designed to maximize bud quality by creating multiple colas instead of one giant cola on the main meristem and increasing yields. Again, it is the increase in top bud sites that increases yields when using cannabis training methods such as topping.
Why removing the top of a plant can be beneficial
The top three reasons cannabis growers use topping as a training method include space management, hormone distribution, and lighting efficiency. We'll explain the "why" behind each of these statements and how topping can lead to more success in the garden.
When grown naturally, cannabis plants want to grow in the shape of a Christmas tree, with the lower branches as wide as possible to receive unobstructed light. Removing the top means the lower branches are no longer protected by the large fan leaves at the top. The more light for more leaves, the more photosynthesis, which means that the plant has more strength to grow and develop buds.
The cannabis topping technique can also be used as a height control tool in small grow areas with low ceilings. Topping is also an effective training technique for creating an even dome. If growers grow different varieties of cannabis and one grows much taller than the others, pinching that plant will bring it back to a level closer to the others.
Cannabis topping is an effective plant management tool if the gardener allows their plant to become too tall in the vegetative stage. Most strains nearly double in size during the "pull" transitional phase when you begin the flowering cycle. If the plant is already close to the light source and you fear it will grow taller than the light after stretching, topping can tame that beast and take control again.
There are several physiological benefits to plant topping. When the cannabis plant is pinched, the lower branches rise up to form a canopy. These branches become thicker and stronger, and often require less support later on. The primary physiological cause of the apex of any plant may be the redistribution of auxins and hormones when we break apical dominance.
Instead of auxins and growth hormones hitting the highest point, they were evenly distributed over an even crown. This promotes uniform growth in many places in the buds, rather than at one highest point. Having more "top" buds instead of one big cola can dramatically increase your yields, especially when combined with other plant training methods.
Another reason growers want a level canopy is to maximize the amount of usable light (PPFD) delivered to the cannabis plant. An even canopy will distribute the same amount of light to as many buds as possible. When plants grow untrained, they can have a main stem well above the bulk of the lower branches and buds.
To accommodate this higher top area, the grow light needs to be placed further away from most bud areas, resulting in a lower PAR for the bulk of the buds. With an even canopy, you can position the light closer to most of the top buds.
In general, when you tie a plant (or even many side branches), you will get two new branches in place of the old one. Growers then have two spots for buds, which is one way topping can help increase yields. Changing the distribution of growth hormones also promotes lateral branching of the plant. Combined, these two benefits result in a larger, denser plant than a plant grown without a top.
When to plant a cannabis plant
Topping a cannabis plant is almost always done in the vegetative stage. In cases of an extremely resilient plant during flowering, topping may be the only option, but in most cases topping cannabis is done in the growing season. Most gardeners plant cannabis once or twice. This learning technique can be done multiple times while the grower gives the plant a chance to recover in between.
Manufacturers often refer to the node number when and where they plant a plant. It is best to act on your own. Typically growers recommend topping between the 5th and 7th nodes. However, there can often be a difference in plant height of up to 5-7 knots, depending on the indica or sativa morphology. Know the height of the garden space and the typical stretch of the variety, and choose the plant accordingly.
Other growers let the plant go into a vegetative stage before leading the cannabis plant. The formed root system helps the plant recover faster compared to a seedling with a less developed root system. Gardeners may want to prune a few of the lower branches before deciding where to place the top. Removing some of the lower shoots will affect how many branches (nodal spaces) to leave before grafting the plant.
In both cases, you only want to prune the healthy plant, as this method causes some stress. Although the plant is slightly shocked, with reliable genetics, pinching the plant should not cause hermaphroditism. Topping cannabis plants is the most common of all plant training methods.
How to beat a cannabis plant
Gardeners will need only one tool for processing a plant - a sharp sterile blade. Many cannabis gardeners will use pruning shears, while others will use a new razor blade. As with the clone, gardeners will want to cut at a 45 degree angle rather than straight across.
When pruning an adult plant, make a cut 2-3 cm above the last node you want to fork. The cut part of the stem will dry out and wrinkle slightly. Leaving this extra space allowed to do so without compromising the strength of the branches at the topmost node.
To count nodes, start with the first set of lower branches and work your way up. Each pair of branches above is a new node. Nodes are simply where a branch joins, usually one branch on each side of it. With this plant training technique, growers count the nodes on the main stem to decide where to place the top.
Now that you're ready
After treating a cannabis plant, give it a few days to a week for it to recover from the shock. Don't cut off a cannabis plant and then start it to bloom right away. Water and feed the plant; it's incredible what a healthy cannabis plant can handle in regards to learning methods and stress.
Using this simple plant training method, you can get higher yields, grow different varieties side by side, and maximize your power efficiency per euro.
Topping as a plant training method is often used in combination with other methods. LST (Low Stress Training) techniques such as bending or tying branches are another way to master crown control and break the top dominance of the plant. A cannabis training technique called "mainline" is a combination of topping and LST.
Our goal is to unravel the mystery of these growing methods and make them accessible to any hobby gardener. We'll cover LST, supercropping, combing and more in future plant education articles. What techniques would you like to learn more about? What are your favorite plant training methods? Let us know in the comments. Happy gardening!