Hey Everyone! My name is Chris and I wanted to share this article I wrote on increasing your yields for free by managing your canopy. Let me know what you think or have any information that I missed! 8 Ways to Increase Yields for Free by Managing Your Canopy Canopy management science has long been the preoccupation of growers and cultivators, including for the cannabis-enthusiast. Cannabis growers have been pushing the limits of the plants’ natural characteristics to bend the growing habits of outdoor plants to the restricted indoor growing environment. Unpruned marijuana naturally tends to grow long and thin, which while beautiful, does not produce impressive yields. As growers have learned with extensive experimentation, increasing yield through a variety of different canopy management techniques is a careful balance between gentle pushing and the plant's stress response. As many growers have found, a little stress goes a long way; too much manipulation can do more harm than good. Throughout the years, the marijuana community’s commitment to exploring canopy management has created a nearly unlimited variety of options for the indoor grower. While many experts may lead you to believe that you need to purchase specific strains, learn complicated methods, or set up complex technical equipment, there are countless methods available for free (or at least with rudimentary equipment requirements) that can increase yields just as effectively. The primary ingredient for any of the following eight canopy management methods is that they require time, and most importantly patience. Healthy, lush canopy development cannot be rushed; it needs to be carefully nurtured to succeed. Trying to push your plants too far will only lead to increased stress and lower harvests. By forcing the plants to adapt to new unnatural shapes, or planned pruning, you’ll most certainly add additional time to the growth cycle, but when done correctly, this extra time will lead to significantly higher yields. Another key aspect of most forms of canopy management is to only practice the pruning or manipulation methods during the vegetative stage or at the very latest before they enter bloom. If plants are put under stress during the bloom stage, the yield will suffer. It is also recommended never to prune more than 25 percent of a plant to avoid undue stress and subsequently reduced harvests. Finally, many, if not all these ideas can be used in different combinations depending on strain and personal style to increase yields. 1. Basic Pruning One of the simplest methods which have been adapted from flower and vegetable gardens around the world, pruning is a way to remove the non-vital and non-productive foliage from the plant. While it causes short term stress to the plant, it will push the plant to focus only on the more productive areas that remain, specifically the higher canopy and the colas. Depending on your lighting set up and grow space, trim off the unneeded foliage areas that will suffer from poor light quality. Pruning will likely also be required after using some of the other techniques, as the plant might begin trying to bush out in areas that are unproductive to focus on. 2. Low-Stress Training (LST) Low-stress training, also called LST, is a method of carefully altering the primary direction of plant growth from a vertical pathway to a more lateral one. Typically this involves gently tying the main stalk horizontally along a trellis to encourage new growth to sprout upwards from this new lateral branch. This new growth develops into a fuller canopy. Once tied, the lower branches now receive direct light, and they should subsequently develop into bushy, juicier yields.This technique has long been in practice amongst other trainable plant enthusiasts, including rose gardeners and in vineyards. This low-stress training technique can be combined with other variations of canopy management as well, including the method of topping (see below). 3. Topping Topping has become a popular method for increasing yield over the past few decades. Under the correct practice, topping can increase your yield by roughly 20 percent. Part of the methodology behind this technique is that as plants stretch out during their vegetative stage, the light needs to be placed at a significant distance to avoid burning out the top cola as it forms. Since the light is placed quite high, the lower portions of the plant will receive significantly lower levels of light. Indirect light filtering down through the plant will naturally reduce the final yield of the lower branches which is why topping the plant before it stretches out is important for encouraging a more level, bushier canopy. To top your plant correctly, identify the dominant stalk and locate the highest set of fully formed leaves. By cutting above this last node, the plant will be encouraged to sprout new foliage and exciting new colas from this point onward. In some cases, plants can be encouraged even further by awaiting the new growth and repeating the process to encourage more colas. 4. Super Cropping On the other side of the spectrum to low-stress training is something called super cropping, also referred to as high-stress training. Through careful manipulation and application of stress, super cropped encourages the plant to have a flat, bushy canopy where all colas are even and can benefit from direct light. To safely apply this technique, and avoid undue stress, identify the main colas of the plant during the vegetative stage. Importantly the stems need to be still young, green, and supple; they cannot be woody and stiff. Carefully squeeze the stem directly above the highest set of fully formed leaves (the same nod you might have identified for topping), and attempt to crush the inside of the stem without breaking the skin. Squeeze gently back and forth until you can bend the stem down and have it stay bent. If you break the skin, some growers apply tape to help the plant heal. As the plant heals itself from the applied stress, it encourages growth through its secondary shoots, called lateral meristems, and these begin to grow vertically to match the growth of the primary meristems. This growth flushes out the canopy and creates a level playing field for cola development. 5. SCROG Long been the topic of online forms, the screen of green technique (SCROG), is rapidly becoming one of the most popular methods for increasing yield. While it might be one of the more sophisticated methods listed in this review of canopy management systems, it isn’t solely for experts. In essence, SCROGing means to place a screen or net over top of the plants before setting them into bloom. The screen is typically secured to the ceiling, and plants are manipulated during the vegetative state with another technique such as LST or topping, to encourage multiple bud formation underneath the screen. As the plant enters into bloom, it will encourage its now multi-cola canopy up through the various screen areas. This technique requires mastery of some of the simpler methods also listed here, but it can significantly increase yield through maximum exposure of canopy to light. It is specifically beneficial for small growing spaces. 6. Lollipopping Often combined with topping, lollipopping is a way to help your plants to focus their attention where it counts, on the top most cola development. To lollipop means to remove the lower foliage that tends to suffer from indirect light and is typically very unproductive. Considering most traditional set ups have top down lighting, it can only actually reach 12” to 18” down into the plant cover, meaning many set ups can benefit substantially from lollipopping. Experienced growers who promote the lollipop technique will often lollipop the shorter lower branches and top off the taller branches for the combined effect of creating a full, level canopy. The final outcome tends to resemble lollipops on long sticks, or a bouquet of long stemmed roses with all the buds focused at the top. 7. Main Lining Also called manifolding, main lining was developed under a particular set of rigorous pruning and manipulating guidelines which aim to build bigger buds and split the dominant apical into two. Again, like SCROGing, it does require a bit more skill than some of the other methods in this review. To main line a cannabis plant, begin with a plant that has six nodes and start by topping it down to the third highest set of leaves. Some also recommend cleaning up underneath the plant as well. After waiting for the plant to recover, the next step comes after four new nodes have grown on each side of your plant. They then recommend pruning out all new nodes except number one and three. With only number one and three remaining, this will leave four separate but robust places for colas to develop on each side. Once the plant is trimmed in this manner, it can continue through the vegetative state using ties to ensure that each cola maintains the same height as the others. As it hits bloom stage, the canopy should all be laterally level. As blooming begins, other canopy manipulation methods can be used to increase yield further. 8. Bud Support The bud support method can be incorporated into many other canopy management regiments, and unlike pruning and manipulation techniques, it tends to reduce the stress on the plant, letting it focus its attention on larger bud production. Bud support isn’t complicated and quite literally means to support the weight of the growing bud. Support can be offered through a variety of innovative methods, either by gently tying buds to an existing trellis, using bamboo stakes or even with bud yo-yos which are linked into the ceiling. As the plant is no longer forced to focus on holding up its large flowers, it will be able to support heavier bud formation. Using these supports can also help better align the flowers towards direct light, which is another method to support increased final yields.