SAPS: Using LED lighting for growing puts crops in best possible light

Number 5 in the Sustainable Agricultural Practices Series.

Food: It’s what makes the world go ‘round. This, and air and water, you know, the essentials or fundamentals.

Efficiency, meanwhile, is responsible for practices, such as growing foods, to be improved; streamlined in some cases. And, innovation is what allows efficiency to take place.

Hydroponic growing technique
Hydroponic growing technique

One innovation in agricultural practices is the application of light. Outside, light is provided by the sun. Inside growing, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. What we’re talking about here is specialized lighting application inside greenhouses, for example, of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting as a way to improve inside growing conditions for crops and plants grown in this manner.

It’s becoming a more viable way of growing food indoors. It’s also much more efficient.

“Hidden inside the prominent Philips lighting building in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, is the state-of-the-art GrowWise Center,” writes Vegetable Growers News correspondent Melanie Epp in: “Lighting the way: LED lighting solutions create a recipe for optimum plant growth,” the Sept. 2016 VGN cover story. “Here, researchers work to provide tailor-made LED light growth recipes for producers who wish to grow healthy, quality food indoors year round. The facility is concentrating its research on optimizing recipes for leafy vegetables, strawberries and herbs. Other areas of research are looking at growing wheat and potatoes indoors.”

Global director of city farming for Philips is Gus van der Feltz, who emphasizes that through its research production of food grown on the local level (and this could include urban settings) can be enabled around the world. The result is conservation of land and water, less waste and reduced need for shipping produce to distant markets, Epp brought to bear in the “Lighting the way” piece.

More LED lighting benefits

But LED lighting for indoor growing goes beyond even this. “LED lighting has improved the taste, quality and health of vegetables; reduced losses due to pests, disease and weed pressure; and reduced overall energy costs, said Robert Colangelo of Green Sense Farms in Illinois,” related Epp. All of these pluses surely mean one thing: air-quality improvement. Additionally, there is no dust being kicked up on account of farm tractor disking (tilling) and plowing of land that are common in field-farming practices. Shipping local also cuts down on pollution entering the air.

Unique to growing crops in LED lighting conditions is that, with the correct combination of LED lighting colors, things like “plant height, width, color and taste,” can be controlled, added Epp. “Red light, for instance, affects height, and blue affects width.”

Because LEDs are low power devices, lighting using this technology just lasts longer, compared to, say, fluorescents, and they also give off less heat.

“‘Having lights that produce less heat and PAR (higher photosynthetic active radiation) and use less electricity are much more sustainable, better for the environment and better for our business because they’re more economical,’ he said,” Epp wrote in citing Colangelo.

Application of LED lighting in facilitating crop growth proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the science of growing crops has indeed come a long, long way.

Image above: NASA, Kennedy Space Center

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