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Cary A. Mitchell

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Cary A. Mitchell

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Cary A. Mitchell

Following is the invited perspective of an academic researcher and director of a multi-institutional research and education project tasked to test the feasibility of adopting light-emitting diode (LED) technology for application by the commercial horticulture industry. Academics researching basic specialty-crop responses to spectra, intensities, and durations of lighting with LEDs often find technical queries from growers, vendors, and entrepreneurs to go beyond the capabilities and scope of systematic research to answer definitively. Differences between commercial and academic research approaches to LED technology development are noted, including legal obstacles to open collaboration. Early generation commercial LED technology for horticultural applications is based on research begun >20 years ago. The basis for selection of various LED wavebands for inclusion in LED plant growth arrays is presented for both commercial as well as research applications. Advantages of light distribution from LED sources for different crop applications are presented, especially including close-canopy and intracanopy lighting, both of which contribute substantially to energy savings. Challenges to providing accurate LED light prescriptions for different crops are discussed, including those for supplemental lighting as well as for sole-source lighting applications. Anticipated trends are projected for horticultural applications of LED technology, including multispectral, individually adjustable, high-intensity arrays; increasing electrical efficacy of future LEDs; and reduced costs of mass production for particular applications.

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Changhoo Chun and Cary A. Mitchell

`Waldmann's Green' leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) is being used as a model leafy vegetable crop to develop a protocol for variable control of photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) during crop production. Feedback from real-time photosynthetic gas exchange rates by lettuce canopies is used to modulate electronic dimming ballasts of lamp banks. Algorithms within process-control software are being fine tuned to maximize increments of photosynthetic output relative to increments of photon input. Dynamic optimization of PPF was 21% more efficient than constant high PPF saturating photosynthesis with respect to biomass accumulated per photons absorbed. Dynamic optimization also is being combined with principles of phasic control, in which environmental resources such as photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are deliberatively limited in input during specific phases of crop development when plants are less sensitive to inputs (e.g., lag, plateau, and senescence phases) but optimized for the responsive exponential phase. Preliminary results indicate that leaf lettuce growth benefits from optimizing environments for no more than 4 or 5 days during a 20-day production cycle. Dynamic optimization of CO2 level is achieved by controlling the injection of CO2 into the inlet air stream of Minitron II crop canopy cuvette/growth chambers. Algorithms are being modified to simultaneously vary PPF and CO2 for optimum photosynthesis.

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Celina Gómez and Cary A. Mitchell

Seedlings of six tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) cultivars (‘Maxifort’, ‘Komeett’, ‘Success’, ‘Felicity’, ‘Sheva Sheva’, and ‘Liberty’) were grown monthly for 2-week treatment periods to determine photomorphogenic and developmental responses to different light-quality treatments from supplemental lighting (SL) across changing solar daily light integrals (DLIs). Seedlings were grown in a glass-glazed greenhouse at a midnorth latitude (lat. 40° N, long. 86° W) under one of five lighting treatments: natural solar light only (control), natural + SL from a 100-W high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamp, or natural + SL from arrays of red and blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) using 80% red + 20% blue, 95% red + 5% blue, or 100% red. Varying solar DLI occurred naturally for all treatments, whereas constant DLI of 5.1 mol·m−2·d−1 was provided for all SL treatments. Supplemental lighting increased hypocotyl diameter, epicotyl length, shoot dry weight, leaf number, and leaf expansion relative to the control, whereas hypocotyl elongation decreased when SL was applied. For all cultivars tested, the combination of red and blue in SL typically increased growth of tomato seedlings. These results indicate that blue light in SL has potential to increase overall seedling growth compared with blue-deficient LED SL treatments in overcast, variable-DLI climates.

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Jay Frick and Cary A. Mitchell

2-[N-morpholino] ethanesulfonic acid (MES) buffer or Amberlite DP-1 (cation-exchange resin beads) were used to stabilize substrate pH of passive-wicking, solid-matrix hydroponic systems in which small canopies of Brassica napus L. (CrGC 5-2, genome: ACaacc) were grown to maturity. Two concentrations of MES (5 or 10 m m) were included in Hoagland 1 nutrient solution. Alternatively, resin beads were incorporated into the 2 vermiculite: 1 perlite (v/v) growth medium at 6% or 12% of total substrate volume. Both strategies stabilized pH without toxic side effects on plants. Average seed yield rates for all four pH stabilization treatments (13.3 to 16.9 g·m-2·day-1) were about double that of the control (8.2 g·m-2·day-1), for which there was no attempt to buffer substrate pH. Both the highest canopy seed yield rate (16.9 g·m-2·day-1) and the highest shoot harvest index (19.5%) occurred with the 6% resin bead treatment, even though the 10 mm MES and 12% bead treatments maintained pH within the narrowest limits. The pH stabilization methods tested did not significantly affect seed oil and protein contents.

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Celina Gómez and Cary A. Mitchell

The relative coolness-to-touch of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) has enabled commercial implementation of intracanopy lighting (ICL) in the greenhouse. Intracanopy lighting, which refers to the strategy of lighting along the side or from within the foliar canopy, can increase canopy photosynthetic activity, but physiological and productivity responses of high-wire greenhouse tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) to intracanopy supplemental lighting (SL) still are not yet fully understood. Two consecutive production experiments were conducted across seasons in a glass-glazed greenhouse located in a midnorthern, continental climate [lat. 40°N (West Lafayette, IN)]. Plants were grown from winter-to-summer [increasing solar daily light integral (DLI)] and from summer-to-winter (decreasing solar DLI) to compare three SL strategies for high-wire tomato production across changing solar DLIs: top lighting with high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS) vs. intracanopy LED vertical towers vs. hybrid SL (HPS + horizontal ICL-LEDs). A control treatment also was included for which no SL was provided. Supplemental DLI for each experimental period was adjusted monthly, to complement seasonal changes in sunlight, aiming to approach a target total DLI of 25 mol·m‒2·d‒1 during fruit set. Harvest parameters (total fruit fresh weight, number of fruit harvested, and average cluster fresh weight), tissue temperature, chlorophyll fluorescence, and stomatal conductance (g S) were unaffected by SL treatment in both experiments. Among the physiological parameters evaluated, CO2 assimilation measured under light-saturating conditions, light-limited quantum-use efficiency, and maximum gross CO2 assimilation (A max) proved to be good indicators of how ICL reduces the top-to-bottom decline in leaf photosynthetic activity otherwise measured with top lighting only (HPS-SL or solar). Although SL generally increased fruit yield relative to control, lack of SL treatment differences among harvest parameters indicates that higher crop photosynthetic activity did not increase fruit yield. Compared with control, intracanopy SL increased yield to the same extent as top SL, but the remaining photoassimilate from ICL most likely was partitioned to maintain nonharvested, vegetative plant parts as well.