The determination of the optimal light spectra for growing crops can be a challenging task for many growers, both established and newcomers. With the increased popularity of LED lighting, the capability to fine-tune light spectra has never been greater. In a recent study published in the horticulture journal Hortscience Inc, “LED Lighting: A Grower’s Guide to Light Spectra”, Dr James Stevens, a Senior Plant Scientist (LED Lighting) at Vertical Future, co-authored a comprehensive study investigating the impact of light spectra on vertical farming.
The study breaks down the fundamental roles of the major spectral regions (ultraviolet, blue, green, red, and far-red) and explains the effect on plant growth, yield, and crop quality (i.e., greenness, coloration, flavor) when applied in isolation or combination. It also explores the potential benefits for growers and how LED lighting can be used to manipulate plant growth and development to improve crop productivity and/or value.
The research suggests some basic LED light “recipes” that could be used by growers to deliver specific growth effects and provides an easy-to-use visual reference guide. Additionally, the study examines the impact of light treatments on crop productivity and weighs increased productivity against the ongoing costs associated with various light treatments, modeled in the context of UK electricity pricing.
The study is part of the Hy4Dense project, which aims to improve the efficiency of crop cultivation, funded by the Interreg 2 Seas Programme. Jamie Burrows, Founder, and CEO of Vertical Future said: “The work undertaken by the team underscores the importance of our team members working with respected institutions such as the University of Essex. Vertical Future more broadly is proud of our record of working with the education sector, and the learnings from this project will be applied in our farms straight away, ensuring Vertical Farmers always get the pick of the crop systems and insights.”
Dr James Stevens added: “While working on the economics of LED lighting at the University of Essex, it became clear that there was a lack of structured information that a grower could access when trying to choose light spectra (colors) for their glasshouses and vertical farms. In this paper, we set out to describe as simply as possible the interventions growers could use to increase the yield of their crops cost-effectively. In addition, we show how light can be used to alter plant shape, structure, flavor, and color to meet buyer specifications. I have worked with my co-authors on a number of publications over the years and it has been a fruitful relationship. Since working at Vertical Future, our collaboration has continued. Through our joint KTP which started in November 2022, we are now doing detailed experimental work to flesh out some of the ideas in this paper. This is a great example of applying science directly into commercial practice which Innovate UK fosters in the UK.”
This study provides valuable insights for growers looking to optimize their crop yield and quality using LED lighting. The information on the impact of different light spectra on plant growth, yield, and crop quality can help growers make informed decisions on the type of LED lighting to use for their specific crops and growing conditions.
Image provided by Vertical Future