Very much the same way bodybuilders stress their muscles to build more and stronger fibers, you can stress the fibers in the stem to create a more vigorous plant.
A weight lifter builds muscle by stressing the muscle to the point of micro-tearing. Cannabis plants have an intricate system of fibers in the stalk that can become strengthened like muscle. Micro-torn fibers rebuild themselves stronger, so they are more able to bring nutrient and stability.
This is called “low stress training” (LST), and it can lead to a greater, more uniform harvest. It is a simple process that offers remarkable results. LST begins when the plants are young and the stalks have not gotten “woody” yet.
The LST process requires bending the plant to stress the fibers that give the plant turgor strength. This is an internal pressure each fiber has, and it helps hold the plant upright. The more the pressure internally pushes outward, the stronger and more able the plant is to deliver water and nutrients.
By stressing the plant at the base of the stalk, you are helping it build muscle strength and a larger stalk to help deliver nutrients to the plant as a whole. At the base of the plant, you will see a thickening of the trunk. You may see very thick roots coming from this area as well, going deep into the soil. This is the desired effect, since these sources bring strength and stability to your plants.
You should start low stress training when the plants are around 8 inches high, tying the plant down as close to horizontal as possible. This initial bending is performed using stakes and plant wire to keep the majority of the plant bent over.
The top or center branch of the plant primarily gets the majority of the energy. Once you’ve bent this center stalk over to allow the side branches to become equal in the energy absorption, the whole plant has many top colas forming. This technique can create a bushy plant that offers many similar-sized top colas.
As the plant recovers and starts its upward growth again, it will become thicker. You can let it grow upward for a few weeks, and then pull and tie the plant down from the top again. You can bend any major branch that grows toward the ground. This manipulation helps the plant continue to create stress, encouraging the plant to gently—that is, with low stress—build “muscles.”
At this point, some growers choose to “top” the plant, or in this case cut off the end that would be the top. Some plants do better when topped and others don’t, so a little research on your strains can help guide you on this technique.
An increased availability of water will become very useful during flowering stage. The massive base and thick roots will help deliver nutrients to your flowers more efficiently. This produces bigger, fatter and denser flowers at harvest time.
Best practices recommend that you choose just a few plants from your room and perform low stress training on them until you get the hang of it. As always, keep notes and compare your side-by-side results.
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