With the approach of the autumn months, there comes the new excitement for the harvesting of crops. Even if this harvest season is a first or one of many, a grower should review the needed basics of harvest and post-harvest methods. There are best practices that should be completed that are best for the crop being grown. If crops are harvested and processed incorrectly, all the hard work put in throughout the season will be for naught as quality will degrade. Some plants require additional processing such as trimming and curing - for example hemp or herbs.
In these instances, a plant will still produce beneficial compounds that impact flavour, scent, and other important traits that sell the product. The way that the crop is dried, stored, and cared for, and how the crop cures truly impacts the potency and quality of the crop. This is due to the biosynthetic processes that develop and create potency and other key factors seen in herb and hemp crops. With the proper conditions and practices, crops gain beneficial qualities even after the crop is cut. With this in mind, it should be no surprise that maintaining the proper practices to protect the crop is just as important as the care put into it during the growing season.
There are two different types of trimming used in the commercial horticulture industry. Either method can work, but the method used is simply all about preference and overall goals of the operation.
The two types of trimming are wet and dry trimming. Depending on the crop types as well will determine the best method of trimming. For example, wet trimming and submersion in water aids in the longevity of cut florals during processing, delivery, and overall selling time to the consumer. In herb crops, it is based on the goals of the grower for taste, aroma, and other factors attributing to the sale of the product.
In these cases, trimming is used to help quicken the drying process. It is because of this that wet trimming is ideal as it is simpler to perform and saves trichomes, avoids mold, and expedites the curing process. Removing fan leaves or excess leaf growth along the stem and other plant parts, the grower moves the additional and unnecessary leaves that ultimately makes the crop take longer to dry. In the dry-trim preference, growers use this method to avoid sticky messes and to increase terpene production, as during the curing process some is lost.
Tips for Proper Trimming
Pruning and trimming plants during the harvesting process requires focus on key factors to promote healthy plants and great quality. Pruning and trimming can also be conducted before a harvest to open the canopy and increase air flow between plants by removing unnecessary leaves and stems from the plant. The first focus should be on hygiene. While the plants shouldn’t need to be cleaned before a pruning or trim, the equipment should be. All equipment and tools should be cleaned and sanitized prior to use in the growing area, as well as cleaning of the tools in between plants by dipping the trimmers or clippers into isopropyl alcohol. Failure to clean these may result in the introduction of pathogens into the crop and a contamination of the growing area. For the plants, the removal of yellowing and dying leaves is also important in hygienic practices.
The second area of focus is in maintaining the correct angles when trimming. Cutting the stem and leaves at the base of the attached stem or main stem should be done with a sharp blade at a 45 degree angle. This keeps vapors and humidity from landing in a fixed area.
The third area of focus is in the pruning and trimming method. Pruning and trimming should be regarded as a systematic process. All trimming should not be done at the same time, but rather on a fixed schedule with the removal of yellowed leaves around 5 days at the end of vegetative growth, and then the final stage of pruning and trimming at the time of harvest or bud/ flower set depending on the type of crop being grown.
Plant Trimming Equipment
For proper trimming that is both done correctly and efficiently, it is important to incorporate the right equipment. There are two methods of trimming either by hand or through automation. The industry has really grown exponentially and has provided many advancements for a wider range of tools to get the job done. For hand trimming an operator should have safety and comfort in mind for workers.
This includes proper oil, scissors, and ventilation. For the automated establishment, it is important to take these into consideration as well as selecting the proper size and type of trimmer. Although most growers prefer to still trim plants by hand, there have been new machines invented and introduced to process and trim plants automatically.