How led light will advence horticulture

- Jul 22, 2019-

The combination of a growing worldwide population and the limited or shrinking availability of arable land, however, has placed significant constraints on the expansion of horticulture in natural settings, driving more horticulture indoors and requiring plant scientists to find viable alternatives to natural sunlight to sustain plant growth operations. Fortunately, LED lighting is an economical and effective substitute for natural light in controlled plant growing environments.

At a basic level, horticulture is relatively simple. Given the right soil, temperature, moisture, and lighting conditions, horticulturalists should be able to cultivate plants anywhere. The lighting component in this formula is much more complex than replacing natural light with an artificial light source. Plants require lights with specific spectral characteristics, including concentrations of light within the appropriate wavelength bands to facilitate plant photosynthesis. Green plants require greater amounts of light in blue and red wavelengths, but have other wavelength requirements between those two bands. Before the advent of LED lighting, horticulturalists were unable to generate artificial light that met all of the wavelength requirements for optimum plant growth.

LED lighting also opens up possibilities for indoor vertical horticulture. Previous generation indoor grow lights that lacked the full spectral characteristics of LED lights were also lacking in their ability to target or disperse light anywhere other than over a large horizontal growing field. This limited indoor horticulture to single story growing facilities with large footprints that consumed significant amounts of real estate. Horticulturalists knew that they could save on real estate requirements if they could create vertical or stacked growing facilities, but indoor grow lighting limited the options for vertical configurations. Next generation LED luminaires have solved this problem with dispersal patterns that shed light uniformly across and through vertical growing configurations. This opens possibilities to re-purpose warehouses and other vertical urban structures as indoor horticulture facilities.

LED lighting will also have an effect on shipping and transportation costs that are already a significant component of produce process. Consumers can currently purchase what were once seasonal produce items, such as berries, at any time of the year because growers around the world can ship those products by air to all corners of the globe. Not only is this shipping expensive, but it adds to horticulture’s global carbon footprint, LED lighting holds the potential to facilitate cultivation of seasonal fruits and vegetables in any part of the world during any season. Rather than bringing loads of strawberries to the United States from South America, growers can use LED lighting to cultivate berries in indoor facilities that are in closer geographic proximity to the markets for those products.

LED lighting can also reduce pesticide and chemical fertilizer usage in the horticultural industry. Cultivators can better manage growing conditions while eliminating natural threats with controlled indoor growing environments.