AHDB Horticulture-funded studies at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) have shown that by adjusting the quantity and quality of LED lighting, improvements can be achieved in both the yields and quality of ornamentals and other crops, demonstrating that the benefits of growing with LEDs go beyond simple energy savings.
The STC research aims to gain a greater understanding about the underlying biology of plant responses to various lighting mixes and what this means in terms of plant morphology and speed of growth. Light-quality experiments this year have focused on establishing whether it is possible to produce plants that are both compact and early-flowering, attributes for which many ornamental growers strive, through combining red, blue and far red in the light spectrum in defined proportions. These experiments have been undertaken without any natural light source.
Significantly, where there is no natural light, the findings show that it is possible to produce bedding plants - in this case pansy and petunia - that are both compact and early-flowering without the need for chemical plant growth regulators, by selecting LED output for an optimum blue percentage and red:far red ratio.
The aim of the research is not to come up with specific recipes but to generate baseline information that can be built on in further research and development, either by AHDB or by individual businesses themselves, avoiding too many blind alleys. An in-depth economic analysis of using LEDs to grow plants will be undertaken during the final year of the project.
Further information about AHDB's LED projects CP 085 and CP 125 can be found online at www.horticulture.org.uk.
For details on all AHDB Horticulture activity, see horticulture.ahdb.org.uk