There are several methods to cultivate cannabis, but for those who want to maximize results, consider crop steering. This procedure is used to improve yields and overall plant performance. But how does it work, and can it be easily replicated by home growers? Here’s all you need to know about crop steering, how it compares to other growth approaches like low and high-stress training, and how it may help your yields.
Crop steering is the ability to control your plants’ temperature, humidity, and watering to get the desired result. This happens because plants contain hormones that govern growth in response to growing circumstances and stressors; these reactions are tied to the seasonal variations that plants are used to in nature. Crop steering manipulates the environment to produce the desired results using these hormonal responses during the vegetative and blooming stages.
This means that cannabis crop steering can be employed at any stage of plant growth to accomplish specific goals. Crop steering has grown highly popular in cannabis grow facilities in recent years as farmers continue to explore the best strategies to balance vegetative and generative plant growth while cultivating cannabis plants. Cultivators can utilize generative steering to begin the blossoming stage with the transition to 12/12.
After the initial defoliation, growers will return to vegetative steering to maintain the plant healthy and increase bud fattening. Cultivators often alternate between generative and vegetative steering strategies to maintain optimal plant balance. Cultivators frequently use vegetative steering methods until a few weeks before harvest, when they turn to a strong steering technique to complete ripening. You should try all crop steering methods to observe how a certain strain or plant will behave. There are two forms of cannabis crop steering:
So, what is the concept behind cannabis steering? It is essentially a strategy for modifying the environmental parameters involved in cannabis growth to elicit a certain plant reaction. This involves adjusting temperature, humidity, light, watering, feeding, CO₂, and other variables. Plants produce hormones that improve performance throughout both the vegetative and generative stages in response to particular situations and various types of stress.
When stems and leaves are the primary focus of the plant’s energy usage and subsequent development, this is called vegetative growth. In general, moderate growing conditions are excellent for stimulating strong leaf development. Lower electrical conductivity (EC), higher water content (WC), lower vapor pressure deficit (VPD), lower light intensity, and an overall stress-free environment are all conditions that support vegetative development.
Although cannabis vegetative growth is most commonly linked with the transition period between clone and flowering, vegetative cues may force plants back into vegetative development at any stage in their lifecycle. For example, if you have compact, slow-growing blossoming plants, you may encourage vegetative development and extend the plants using climatic and irrigation signals.
The plant’s energy is devoted toward flower formation during generative development. The plant minimizes stretching and delays the formation of new leaves. Unlike the moderate temperatures that encourage vegetative growth, harsher summer-like conditions serve as the foundation for generative signals. Increased light intensity, decreased substrate water content, increased EC, and increased VPD are all examples of techniques to encourage generative development in your crop. Generative growth cues can be used throughout the plant’s life cycle, not just during blooming. For example, suppose you have plants in the veg room exhibiting indications of excessive vegetative growth. In that case, you may change the environment and substrate to encourage your plants to develop generatively.
The vegetative development phase of the plant occurs between the seedling and final blooming phases. Plants generate robust stems, branches, and many fan leaves during this period. Conversely, the generative growth stage is when the plant directs its energy toward the formation of buds. Autoflowers transition from the vegetative to the generative phase without any intervention. However, photoperiod strains require a shift in the light cycle to begin blooming.
Influencing a cannabis plant’s environment and employing diverse tactics to maximize performance is nothing new since farmers have long used low and high-stress training approaches to maximize performance. However, there are significant variations between crop steering and plant training that distinguish the two, including:
Although many more factors are involved in steering than in training, both have a valuable purpose in the cannabis growing industry. Training cannabis frequently relies extensively on breaking or removing plant parts or bending branches to induce physical stress, leading to higher growth. However, steering is less strenuous and less physically demanding. Cannabis steering is accomplished by adjusting the environment (e.g., humidity, lighting, and temperature) or modifying irrigation and nutritional parameters such as substrate water content, dryness, and electrical conductivity.
When it comes to steering and training, timing is everything. Because of the added stress and even physical harm caused by bending, chopping, and breaking branches, some growers train their plants too soon, before they are ready. This can cause irreversible harm. Of course, there are many alternative training methods. Still, in any case, it is necessary to wait until the plant is fully in its vegetative stage, with roughly 5-6 nodes, before utilizing low or high-stress training approaches.
Additionally, cannabis is unique in that it may be used throughout both the vegetative and generative stages. If you go about it correctly, changing climate and irrigation elements are unlikely to inflict serious damage to your plants. However, like with training, the general guideline is to wait until 5-6 nodes form on the plant before using any steering methods.
Using tactics such as steering and training is, of course, motivated by results. We want our plants to produce many healthy, flavorful, and plump buds throughout their life cycle. What’s the point if not? Though genetics significantly impact eventual yield, both steering and training can maximize output, although in distinct ways. Breaking, chopping, and manipulating branches during training usually results in more major colas being formed or helps to maximize light energy to all of the bud locations. Steering allows plants to grow and produce large harvests by fine-tuning all the factors during the vegetative and generative stages.
It all comes down to keeping track of the growth of your cannabis plants. But what should you concentrate on? Here are a few indicators that will undoubtedly alert you to the status of your crop steering:
These attributes will be the most telling of whether or not steering is functioning. We’re not saying you must gaze at your plant all day; check in frequently and document any changes in the above parameters. The results will speak for themselves as you become more familiar with cannabis crop steering.
There is no specific period for crop steering because the vegetative stage of cannabis typically lasts 4-8 weeks (sometimes longer), and the blooming stage lasts 6-12 weeks. Monitoring and tweaking are required until the plants are ready to harvest. It typically takes 4-8 months to mature a cannabis plant properly, so be prepared for a lengthy growth time if necessary.
Advancements and innovation in agricultural technology aid crop steering usage in the cannabis industry. Cannabis growers can regulate and automate HVAC, lighting, fans, irrigation, and fertigation systems in addition to data collecting and analysis. Growers can also direct their crops to greater success by combining sensors, control systems, cultivation software, irrigation strategy, and crop registration.
Taylor is an indoor expert. Through their writing, they offer a masterclass on growing cannabis indoors, maintaining a productive growing environment, and guiding growers through all the stages of growth both indoors and outdoors. Combining multiple fields of expertise allows for Taylor to give in-depth insights into overall cannabis growing. About this Author