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As seen in: Issue 42

Satisfy Your Plants And Rebellious Side With Super Cropping

Super cropping is a high-stress plant training technique. It is used for several reasons, including reducing height, repositioning branches, encouraging fuller growth, and increasing flowering/fruiting sites.

Super cropping involves pinching the stem to soften its internal core and make it pliable without damaging the outer fibers. After this, you can manipulate the plant at the pinch point to reposition the stalks and branches. The plant should heal in its new position. Super cropping is a delicate process that, if done incorrectly, can be disastrous.

Why Super Crop?

Super cropping is an excellent method for indoor growers with limited space. It is a perfect way to manage canopy growth and keep your plants a uniform distance from the light.

Some indoor growers turn to super cropping when they have individual stalks rising higher than the rest of the canopy. Without taking action, these rogue branches will force you to raise the light, reducing the efficiency of the rest of your canopy in harnessing available light energy.

super cropping

Super cropping also creates sections of horizontal stem, which often provide additional growth points for stalks and flowering/fruiting sites. By spreading the plant horizontally, the light can reach all flowers more evenly, creating optimum growth along the entire length of the branches. You can also use super cropping to maneuver plants to fill areas in your grow room where light may be underused.

How Super Cropping Works

By pinching and twisting the stem, we break the inner part of the plant without damaging the outer part. Breaking the plant’s inner walls will cause it to rebuild, potentially creating better networks. In just one to two days, the plant will use the new junctions with an increased capacity to move water and nutrients.

The phenomenon of hormesis can explain this reaction. Hormesis is defined as the beneficial effects of mild stress on an organism. For example, consider a bodybuilder; to get their muscles bigger, they essentially have to stretch, overwork and tear the ones they have. Once the muscle tissue recovers, their muscles are bigger and better than before. The concept is the same in super cropping plants; physically breaking them down makes them stronger and more efficient.

When To Start

When growing indoors, the best time to begin super cropping is late veg and within the first couple of weeks of flower for a photo-period plant. After this period, I would not recommend super cropping because the plant is no longer growing vertically, and the stems are too rigid. Likewise, super cropping young plants can damage them beyond repair; wait until the stems are more sturdy.

How To Super Crop

Many growers claim that bending branches to a nearly 90-degree angle is the best course of action. However, I can’t entirely agree that you should do this every time. You can easily cut off the flow of nutrients and water to branches by bending them so severely. You also risk damaging the outer layer of the plants’ epidermis or breaking the stem altogether.

If you intend to super crop or knuckle your plants to this extent, this is how you do it:

  • Locate a point between internodal growth on the main stem.
  • Gently pinch and twist the stalk in opposing directions until you feel the inner fibers break and the branch becomes droopy.

It is best to perform the first initial big bend opposite to how you intend to reposition the plant permanently. Doing so will reduce the chances of snapping the branch when it is put into its new position and prevent it from dropping to more than a 90-degree angle.

The areas you twist and pinch will initially be fragile, so you may have to tie or support them to keep them in place while they heal. As the branches recover, the breaks will transform into hard knuckles that look similar to bulging elbows on your plant.

super cropping

An alternative method is to pinch and twist the stem with less force along the same branch at a few different sections. This method allows you to bend the branch safely without cutting off the flow of nutrients or water. Once the stem is flexible, tie it down or weave it through a trellis for support.

Does Super Cropping Boost Yields?

Absolutely! Super cropping can produce bigger yields as the plant fights back against the trauma by releasing more growth hormones to heal the damaged areas.

Intentionally damaging your plants might seem like madness and go against everything you have learned as a grower. But if you know what you are doing, it is an excellent high-stress technique with tremendous benefits.

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Author

An industry veteran with over 20 years experience in a variety of roles, Rich is currently a business development manager for a large UK hydroponics distributor. The author of The Growers Guide series, Rich also writes on all aspects of indoor gardening, as well as being an independent industry consultant working closely with hydroponic businesses worldwide.