Crop steering, an agricultural technique developed and refined for many crops, has entered the cannabis cultivation industry in a big way. For some cultivators, crop steering is reportedly doubling or tripling yields and boosting flower quality, making it impossible to ignore in the world of cultivation.
What goes into crop steering and how can cultivators effectively manage their facilities to optimize their results? The key is combining tried and true crop steering techniques with cutting-edge environmental monitoring and control to ensure microclimates are optimized for whatever stage a plant is in during its lifecycle. This guide offers a look at how to manage crop steering with the right solutions that unlock the possibilities for cultivators of all sizes.
Crop steering is the process of managing the environmental conditions affecting a plant’s growth, with the ultimate goal of improving yields and product quality. In cannabis, that means optimizing conditions during the plant’s vegetative stage to ensure the conditions support the precise environment the plant needs to flourish. Then, in the flowering or generative stage, it means strategically tailoring conditions to stress the plant, encouraging a response that results in higher yields and more potent flower.
To engage in crop steering for cannabis, cultivators must understand how to control the environment in both the vegetative and generative stages of the plant’s life cycle. Each stage will generally require different conditions to optimize growth. The precise conditions depend on many factors, including the growing medium and cultivar, but the following describes the general conditions required to engage in crop steering for cannabis plants.
During the vegetative stage, growers should seek to maximize plant growth by creating mild, stress-free conditions and monitoring environmental conditions to optimize the following:
When a plant begins to develop its flower in the generative stage, cultivators should focus on altering each of these conditions to prompt the stress response from the plant, which results in bigger, more potent buds. This is because a higher stress environment mimics the summer climates that signal to a plant it’s time to begin flowering in preparation for pollination and, ultimately, drop its seeds for the next generation. To create these conditions during the generative stage, the water content in the substrate should be reduced, while EC, VPD, and light intensity are increased.
When female plants are isolated in these conditions, they direct energy to grow thick, resin-filled flowers instead. Managing these environmental factors at such a granular level (and ensuring they remain in optimal ranges throughout a plant’s life cycle) means cultivators need to keep close tabs on conditions in their grow room. That’s where environmental monitoring solutions come in.
Environmental monitoring software enables cultivators to keep an eye on conditions in grow rooms in real-time. When it comes to crop steering, cultivators need environmental monitoring software – and data collected and transmitted by sensors placed throughout the facility – to ensure they are balancing each of the above factors correctly. In addition to monitoring water content, VPD, EC, and light intensity and light spectrum, environmental monitoring software should also be able to track temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels, all of which contribute to the overall health of a plant.
TSRgrow’s TOTALgrow Solution combines an energy-efficient LED grow light system with an environmental monitoring solution, GROWHub, that supports the type of precise zone control required for effective crop steering. The connected platform eschews conventional ballast-powered lighting, dimming wires, and analog switches in favor of digital control that grants insights into current conditions in each grow room and enables remote control of lighting intensity.
The TOTALgrow Solution also offers cultivators the ability to set alerts should conditions fall out of the optimal range. This is made possible by the placement of GROWHub sensors throughout the cultivation facility and in separate zones, whether vegetative grow rooms or generative grow rooms. GROWHub sensors communicate with the GROWHub monitoring software platform to offer unprecedented visibility into conditions in each zone throughout the facility. Since GROWHub is integrated with TSRgrow’s LED grow lights, cultivators can adapt lighting to changing conditions and deploy resources as needed to keep microclimates in every zone suitable to the needs of the plants growing there.
For example, in the vegetative stage, if VPD rises outside of the low levels needed to facilitate rapid leafy growth, cultivators can receive mobile alerts to respond accordingly. When it comes to light intensity, conditions are even easier to manage; simply access the user-friendly interface of GROWHub to dim the lights as needed.
When plants move from a vegetative grow room to the generative stage, cultivators can likewise use GROWHub to ensure the harsher conditions of summer are replicated and plants undergo the appropriate amount of stress needed to produce high yields and potent flower. The VPD in these zones should be higher than it was in the vegetative rooms, for example, serving as a cue for the plant to enter its generative stage. Should VPD levels drop, cultivators will be made aware immediately and can respond to keep levels high enough to encourage continued flowering.
Crop steering techniques adapted from other sectors of the agricultural industry have resulted in new heights when it comes to cannabis flower quality and yields. For cultivators, this means more cost-effective operations that result in a better product that can be sold at a premium. But managing crop steering efficiently requires a level of insight into microclimates.
That’s where TSRgrow’s TOTALgrow Solution comes in; the platform offers energy-efficient LED grow lights integrated with powerful environmental monitoring and control software that lets cultivators track conditions anywhere and everywhere that they need to collect data. And when it comes to crop steering, that’s pretty much everywhere that plants are growing. If you are interested in learning more about TSRgrow's TOTALgrow Solution, contact us today!