LED study sees gerbera production boosted over conventional methods

Greenhouse spectrum control systems company LumiGrow says plants grown under LEDs produce a sixth more marketable gerbera flowers.

A team of scientists led by Dr. Youbin Zheng at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario recently released the results of a study that showed that plants grown under LumiGrow LEDs produced 16 per cent more marketable flowers than those grown under conventional high pressure sodium (HPS) lighting.

The team at Guelph will soon embark on another study to find out which combination of red, blue and white LEDs maximise crop performance further. LumiGrow will also partner on another study set to begin soon at the Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre (GPCRC) in Harrow, Ontario.

The study will be conducted by Shalin Khosla, greenhouse vegetable specialist at the GPCRC, and will be run in parallel with commercial production greenhouses to identify optimal light schedules for major tomato growers in Ontario and throughout North America.

LumiGrow chief executive officer Kevin Wells said: "We use LumiGrow lighting technology to help our customers achieve the best results for their crops by dynamically manipulating the spectrum based on each grower’s needs. The work our Canadian research partners are doing to improve crop quality and rigor, to lengthen stems and shelf life, and to improve taste and nutritional content is transformative to our Canadian customers and greenhouse growers around the world."

Dr. Zheng, associate professor and environmental horticulture chair at the University of Guelph, along with researchers David Llewellyn and Katie Vinson, designed a trial to evaluate LED technology’s effectiveness when used as supplemental lighting during the darker months of the year.

The trial, conducted in conjunction with LumiGrow and cut flower grower Rosa Flora from November 2013 to March 2014, focused on three different varieties of gerbera. Gerbera, the fifth most popular cut flower in the world, was selected because of its importance for North American growers and the reliance on supplemental lighting for production between November and March in northern climates. In addition to leading to 16 percent more marketable flowers, LEDs also cut lighting energy use by 40 per cent.

The University of Guelph study concluded:, "LED supplemental lighting can produce as good or better cut gerbera crops than HPS lighting, but at a substantial energy savings.

Zheng added: "What we want to find out now is: what is the optimum level of supplemental LED lighting for growing cut flowers, especially during the darker months? We will study this during the upcoming 2014-15 supplemental lighting season."

Commercial greenhouse growers have already been harvesting the benefits of the new field of spectrum control. Canadian floral and produce growers, including Mans Organics, Mucci Farms and Rainbow Greenhouses have adopted the company’s spectrum control system to improve crop productivity and reduce operating costs.

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