Lets start by defining "defoliation" in the context of this technique. The term has negative connotations as Cannabis has been the target of defoliation by the Feds using Paraquat chemical defoliants. This is not what this is about.
This technique is about leaf removal by hand. It is employed to relieve shading in crowded conditions. It is a substitute to the popular technique of removing lower branches.
Defoliation encourages branching in vegging plants in the same way as nipping the leader. The benefit of this technique is that the leader is retained to continue to create branches. It also shortens nodal length creating a more compact specimen.
This is how the following plants are capable of yielding as much as 12 oz. in an allotted space measuring 32" cubed.
Leaves are removed starting in veg stage when they are about 6" tall with a couple of sets of fans. Leaves are removed again every 2-3 weeks or whenever things get a little shady.
3 decades of experience with this technique reveal that bud growth benefits more from light exposure than whether the corresponding fan leaf is present.
The idea with this method is to not remove any bud sites like in the aforementioned technique of lower branch removal. Bud sites produce bud. Do not remove. This method allows light to penetrate to all bud sites, not just the top buds.
This technique should not be done on plants that have not been prepared by defoliation from the beginning.
Observers will be shocked at the nakedness of a fully plucked skeleton of a barely flowering shrub. They will be even more shocked at the results after a few weeks. These results will debunk any insistence that big shading leaves are necessary for good bud production. Besides are we producing buds or leaf.
This specimen was thoroughly plucked continuously through it's 11 week cycle as well as during veg. No shortage of branches or buds, all of them chunky and exposed.
Clearly there are still plenty of leaves on the plant. It is impossible to remove the close leaf once things get clustered and sticky. Still as much leaf as possible is removed relieve any shading.
32"x32"x32" is all the space allowed. Before and after putting scythe to trunk. Intensive defoliation is the rule.
Look closely at the stem structures and you can see the kinks where they have been repeatedly bent to better fill the given space evenly. The idea is to create a more horizontal spread as the light is delivered and spread evenly in a horizontal field. This structure is matching that giving light to all sites.
I leave NO fans, even in veg. Fans are the culprits. Yes, you will have a scrawny looking skeleton...for a few days. You must be patient. This is about creating a more productive structure. Try a couple of clones side by side. The one left alone will get a lot taller faster and have wonderful looking leaves, if it was only leaves we were after...I have tossed dumpsters full. The plucked one will branch and produce more sites.
I want compact individuals with as many sites as possible.
The plant on the right is too leafy. It's ready for a good pluck
The leafy one will get 3-5" node spacing once it achieves it's 6th or 8th set of leaves, and be oversized for this kind of compact endeavor. The fan leaves will take over the veg area and the leafy plant will otherwise be ready to flower depending on setup. We want to focus on the defoliated one. It takes preparation and an extra week or two. Extra time in veg should be inconsequential in the long run as veg is a constant operation. All that is being adjusted is the size and structure of the clones in preparation to become 10-12 oz compact finishers.
I never got the lollipopping thing. I've seen too many setups with 6' plants and 5' of stem. Seems like something got out of hand to have to remove so much growth. Should have been flowered sooner or something if top growth so outpaced the bottom to require removal. Bud sites are valuable and desired. They take time to develop so they should not be removed but rather accommodated by creative bending and leaf removal. I like to see tough nugs on the very bottom nodes.
Results speak for themselves. Indoors is about intensive cultivation. That means making the most of a limited amount of light in a limited area. This is akin to bonsai, but applied to a rapidly growing weed. thanks to k33ftr33z