LED and plants: the future of horticulture

LED and plants: the future of horticulture

That lighting has a significant role in plant growth is a well-known fact. A recent study published by the National Geographic Society highlighted the relationship between photosynthesis and the production of hormones that regulate the growth of plants. In fact, in the absence of the right lighting, for example during cloudy skies, plants can go into a sort of ‘lethargy’ to stop the production of this growth hormone and use their resources for other activities, such as defending themselves from diseases.

The study was conducted by the Plant Lab of the Institute of Life Sciences at the University “Scuola Superiore di Sant’Anna” in Pisa and published in the latest issue of Plant Cell. Another international research by the Polytechnic of Vienna, in Austria, and published in the Frontiers in Plant Science, showed that trees can ‘sleep’ to adjust to outdoor lighting as if they had their own circadian rhythm, just like humans. For these reasons, even the most updated lighting projects designed for city green areas must take into account of the possible interference between artificial lighting and plant life. Read also “At San Severo, lighting respects the environment and plants”.

So why can’t we use lighting to increase plant growth by intervening on the specific growth factors? And can this strategy be used in horticulture?

The answer is yes. Furthermore, it has been proven that not only some types of lamp, but LEDs too, can do an excellent job. It is not a surprise that consolidated experience exists. In fact, plants can be made to grow under artificial lighting to allow greater production and increased quality. Generally speaking, in the so-called vertical farms or in farm dominiums, high-pressure sodium lamps (with a short life) are used for top-down lighting. In summary, vertical farms consist of parallel rows of plants to minimize the use of space, while farm dominiums are movable farms that can be transferred on ships, where plants complete their growth under artificial lighting.

All this takes on different importance and significance if we use LED lighting. First of all, because colour temperature and light colour can be modulated to supply the most suited lighting for each specific type of plant. For example, the best light for plants is blue between 430 and 490 nm and red between 640 and 780 nm, but to speed up growth and increase quality and quantity, researchers have demonstrated that, in this case, the best light is infrared light at 730 nm.

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The LED farm by Miriai Co LTD in Japan produces 10000 heads of lettuce every day

At this point, we just need to discover what are the best lighting parameters required for a particular plant and supply this lighting through LED sources. Since the lighting emitted by the LEDs can be controlled, they can be used for any type of desired plant. Recent studies indicate that plant growth can be increased by up to 40%. Furthermore, LED light is dot-like, so it can be aimed exactly where needed, avoiding shades and reducing consumptions.

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All this also creates great business opportunities. To this end, the Horticulture Lighting Conference will be held on October 12th, in Chicago, USA.

The organizers define LEDs for plants as a “new booming market destined to create a revolution in the world of horticulture”.

 

  • Posted by Redazione
  • On August 16, 2016
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