Super cropping is a high-stress training technique (HST) in which growers deliberately stress cannabis plants by slightly damaging them in a planned way. Certain stems of the plants are twisted and bent during the vegetative stage to encourage them to grow more leaves and buds.
The result is a sturdy, bushier plant with many more buds. THC levels might also be increased. This technique replicates the cannabis plants natural response to the risk of being harmed by animals in the natural environment. Growers often use Super Cropping to produce better yields and buds with higher THC content.
Why do Cannabis Plants Produce THC?
As far as we know, cannabis is the only plant to create THC, the cannabinoid that produces the much appreciated psychoactive effects of marijuana. The plant mostly produces this compound in the flowers of female plants.
Compounds similar to cannabinoids are widely found in most plants and animals. All mammals, including humans, have a host of cannabinoid receptors throughout their bodies and brains.
Cannabinoid-type substances are abundant in almost all animals and plants. Humans and other mammals have countless receptors for cannabinoids (the endocannabinoid system) throughout their brains and bodies. The endocannabinoid system together with natural cannabinoids allows us to eat, sleep, relax and forget.
But why do cannabis plants produce THC, a powerful psychotropic compound? The answer is – they’re probably doing it to protect themselves.
In the natural environment, animals such as deer might eat cannabis plants before they have a chance to form seeds to create the next generation. But as far as we know, animals don’t seem to eat all the buds on a cannabis plant. This might be because they don’t like the effects of cannabinoids or perhaps they just hate the taste. This is why scientists believe that cannabis plants produce THC as a way of deterring predators.
So when cannabis plants are under stress, they switch their energy into producing more buds and cannabinoids in an attempt to protect themselves. The plants’ one aim is to create buds that will eventually produce seed for the next generation of plants. This is important for growers to understand as you probably want your plants to create the largest buds with the highest levels of THC possible.
The advantages of super cropping
Growing cannabis in an ideal environment without any natural stresses will keep your plants healthy but you won’t achieve optimal results. It might sound a bit brutal, but you have to be cruel to be kind! Stressing cannabis plants is a very effective technique for improving harvests as the plants focus their energies on creating more buds. There are several key advantages to the super crop technique:
- Super cropping is by far the best training method that doesn’t rely on special equipment or very high levels of skill. All you need are your bare hands and a little knowledge.
- Plants that are under stress by super cropping techniques often become more potent. Part of the cannabis plant’s stress response is the production of resin very rich in THC.
- The super cropping technique is ideally suited to closet growers and anyone with limited growing space.
Unlike plucking leaves or topping, super cropping will not retard the growth of the plants significantly, though you should allow for a short period of recovery.
When to start super cropping?
Unlike topping, FIM and LST high yield techniques which you can start as soon as the plants have developed their first true leaves, you need a bit of patience before you can start super cropping. You need to wait until at least week 3 or 4 so the plant is still in its vegetative stage but is around 30 cm tall.
Once cannabis plants have transitioned to the flowering stage, hormonal changes take place and super cropping will no longer be effective. The plant should be growing well with many strong branches that are still flexible.
Late super cropping is not viable as during the flowering stage, the stalks are too firm and are more likely to snap. You will end up with fewer buds instead of more.
How to super crop cannabis: step by step instructions
All you need:
- The right knowledge
- A little growing experience
- Your bare hands
- Plant ties or cable ties to tie the branches into place
- Duct tape to repair mistakes
Step one: Select the best branches to super crop
Super cropping should be done while the plant is still vegging and before the flowering stage begins. The plant needs to have grown many vigorous, healthy branches.
For the super cropping technique, choose stems that are mature but still flexible or bendy. They should still be green, unlike the wood-like lower part of the main stem.
In a cannabis plant with several colas, (clusters of buds), apply the super crop technique in the same place on each cola. When a plant has just one main cola, choose the greenest, most flexible growth near the top. The idea is to create a level canopy, with all the stems of roughly equal height.
Step two: Squeezing and bending the branches
The super cropping technique aims to stress the tissues of the stalks without damaging the exterior. This makes the stalk very pliable so you can easily bend it.
The idea is to damage the inner structure of the stem without causing damage to the exterior skin. This makes the stem very flexible so it is easy to bend it in the direction that you would like it to grow.
Take hold of a branch and apply firm pressure, squeezing it between your thumb and first finger. This will loosen the joint you are going to create. Roll the stalk back and forth between your fingers for about ten seconds to loosen it enough so that it will bend. Older, more rigid stems might take up to 60 seconds.
Gently and carefully bend the stem into the direction you want it to grow and fix it in place with a plant tie or something similar. Don’t force it – if you think the stalk feels like it might snap, stop and select another one.
You might have seen growers grabbing branches and quickly snapping them, but this increases the risk that the outer “skin” will be broken and need to be repaired with duct tape. However, cannabis is a very resilient plant so don’t worry too much.
You will know you’ve bent the stem enough when it rests at a 90° angle and stays down where you bent it. Ideally, the exterior tissue should remain intact.
Now you must secure the branch into its new position, otherwise, in a couple of days, it will pop back up again.
The plant will respond to the super cropping process in the same way as if it had been damaged by animals, by growing new leaves and colas.
Step three: Repairing any damage to the outside skin and tying the branches down
You might well find that there is no damage to the exterior of the super crop site but if you spot any tears or cracks, you can use duct tape to reinforce the stem. It will soon heal.
If you didn’t crack the stalk, all you need to do is to fix it not its new position. Cable ties or twisty plant ties are a quick and effective way to do this.
As the plant heals, it will eventually grow a lumpy knot where you bent it which can transport even more nutrients and water than previously.
Step four: Removing the duct tape
Wait at least a week before removing any duct tape. You will notice some discolouration where the stem is healing – this is completely normal. If the super crop site is grey and has not yet grown a protective knot, just leave the tape on for a few more days.
The plant will still be able to deliver water and nutrients as long as the stem is reinforced with tape.
The result: more branches, more buds and high-quality yield. Super cropping gives a more compact, bushy cannabis plant that is ideal for stealth growers.
Some disadvantage of super cropping
Super cropping is an easy and effective technique but isn’t for everyone! There are a couple of disadvantages to bear in mind.
- The cannabis plants need to be a strain with a relatively long vegging period (6-8 weeks) for super cropping to work well. This technique is not suitable for auto-flowering strains as these burst into bloom more quickly.
- While super cropping is ideal for home growers, growers with larger plantings may find the technique is too time-consuming and labour-intensive. SCROG or SOG techniques may be more suitable.
Super cropping gives you many of the benefits of other HST techniques, yet all you need is a bit of knowledge, skill and some duct tape! Give it a try with your next planting!