Securing the dominant top shoot encourages strong growth of lower branches.
Photo by Mel Frank

A number of techniques exist for increasing cannabis yields, including watering, lighting, fertilization and timing of vegetative and flowering periods. Here, we’ll highlight 5 of the most common pruning and training techniques used to maximize cannabis yields without significant capital investments. Most pruning and training should be undertaken while the plant is the vegetative stage, whether you’re employing these techniques indoors or outdoors. These techniques may be used independently or in various combinations to achieve maximum yields, depending upon the layout of your cultivation facility.

1. Removal of lower branches.

Most every style of cultivation operation will rely on pruning that includes removal of lower non-productive branches. This is best done early on in the vegetative stage and will encourage the plant to focus on the taller and more productive branches, increasing weight and size of colas the plant produces.

2. Removal of dead or moribund leaves.

This is especially important in an indoor cultivation operation, as lower leaves tend to begin to die as higher leaves grow and block light from reaching them. Removal of dead and dying leaves will minimize risk of disease and pests that can reduce yields, and allows the plant to focus energy on productive leaves and bud formation.

3. Regular pruning.

The continued removal of branches with long internodes or space between nodes on the lower part of the plant throughout the vegetative cycle is another common practice for indoor and outdoor cultivators.

4. Topping plants.

Topping is a pruning technique in which the main shoot is snipped down to encourage secondary shoots to grow with greater vigor. A plant may be topped multiple times, and each time it is topped, the number of dominant shoots will double.

5. Low-stress training.

This is a training method where instead of topping the main shoot, it is tied down and trained to grow in a horizontal fashion, which causes the other shoots to grow more rapidly.

With careful monitoring and experimentation, you can determine which pruning and training techniques work best for your operation and cultivar selection. And check out the August issue of Cannabis Business Times for 5 more tips on maximizing yield with little investment, including fimming, SCROG and super cropping.

Crystal Oliver is co-owner/founder of Washington’s Finest Cannabis, an outdoor cannabis farm licensed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board since August 2014. She also serves as executive assistant for Washington NORML and sits on the Cannabis Farmers Council Executive Board.