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  • Author or Editor: Gioia Massa x
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Electrical cost, primarily for lighting, is one of the largest factors inhibiting the development of “warehouse-based” controlled environment agriculture (CEA). In a jointly sponsored collaboration, we have developed a reconfigurable LED lighting array aimed at reducing the electrical energy needed to grow crops in controlled environments. The lighting system uses LED “engines” that can operate at variable power and that emit radiation only at wavelengths with high photosynthetic activity. These light engines are mounted on supports that can be arranged either as individual intracanopy “lightsicles” or in an overhead plane of lights. Heat is removed from the light engines using air flow through the hollow LED strip mounts, allowing the strips to be placed in close proximity to leaves. Different lighting configurations depend on the growth habit of the crops of interest, with intracanopy lighting designed for planophile crops that close their canopy, and close overhead lighting intended for erectophile and rosette crops. Tests have been performed with cowpea, a planophile dry bean crop, growing with intracanopy LED lighting compared to overhead LED lighting. When crops are grown using intracanopy lighting, more biomass is produced, and a higher index of biomass per kW-h is obtained than when overhead LEDs are used. In addition, the oldest leaves on intracanopy-grown plants are retained throughout stand development, while plants lit from overhead drop inner-canopy leaves due to mutual shading after the leaf canopy closes. Research is underway to increase the energy efficiency and automation of this lighting system. This work was supported in part by NASA: NAG5-12686.

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Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have tremendous potential as supplemental or sole-source lighting systems for crop production both on and off earth. Their small size, durability, long operating lifetime, wavelength specificity, relatively cool emitting surfaces, and linear photon output with electrical input current make these solid-state light sources ideal for use in plant lighting designs. Because the output waveband of LEDs (single color, nonphosphor-coated) is much narrower than that of traditional sources of electric lighting used for plant growth, one challenge in designing an optimum plant lighting system is to determine wavelengths essential for specific crops. Work at NASA's Kennedy Space Center has focused on the proportion of blue light required for normal plant growth as well as the optimum wavelength of red and the red/far-red ratio. The addition of green wavelengths for improved plant growth as well as for visual monitoring of plant status has been addressed. Like with other light sources, spectral quality of LEDs can have dramatic effects on crop anatomy and morphology as well as nutrient uptake and pathogen development. Work at Purdue University has focused on geometry of light delivery to improve energy use efficiency of a crop lighting system. Additionally, foliar intumescence developing in the absence of ultraviolet light or other less understood stimuli could become a serious limitation for some crops lighted solely by narrow-band LEDs. Ways to prevent this condition are being investigated. Potential LED benefits to the controlled environment agriculture industry are numerous and more work needs to be done to position horticulture at the forefront of this promising technology.

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Significant advances in controlled-environment (CE) plant production lighting have been made in recent years, driven by rapid improvements in light-emitting diode (LED) technologies. Aside from energy efficiency gains, LEDs offer the ability to customize the spectrum delivered to a crop, which may have untold benefits for growers and researchers alike. Understanding how these specific wavebands are attenuated by plant tissue is important if lighting engineers are to fully optimize systems for CE plant production. In this study, seven different greenhouse and field crops (radish, Raphanus sativus ‘Cherry Bomb II’; red romaine lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘Outredgeous’, green leaf lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘Waldmann’s Green’; pepper, Capsicum annuum ‘Fruit Basket’; soybean, Glycine max ’Hoyt’; cucumber, Cucumis sativus ‘Spacemaster’; canola, Brassica napus ‘Westar’) were grown in CE chambers under two different light intensities (225 and 420 μmol·m−2·s−1). Intact, fully expanded upper canopy leaves were used to determine the level of light transmission, at two to three different plant ages, across seven different wavebands with peaks at 400, 450, 530, 595, 630, 655, and 735 nm. The photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) environment that plants were grown in affected light transmission across the different LED wavelengths in a crop-dependent manner. Plant age had no effect on light transmission at the time intervals examined. Specific waveband transmission from the seven LED sources varied similarly across plant types with low transmission of blue and red wavelengths, intermediate transmission of green and amber wavelengths, and the highest transmission at the far-red wavelengths. Higher native PPF increased anthocyanin levels in red romaine lettuce compared with the lower native PPF treatment. Understanding the differences in light transmission will inform the development of novel, energy-saving lighting architectures for CE plant growth.

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Electric supplemental lighting can account for a significant proportion of total greenhouse energy costs. Thus, the objectives of this study were to compare high-wire tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) production with and without supplemental lighting and to evaluate two different lighting positions + light sources [traditional high-pressure sodium (HPS) overhead lighting (OHL) lamps vs. light-emitting diode (LED) intracanopy lighting (ICL) towers] on several production and energy-consumption parameters for two commercial tomato cultivars. Results indicated that regardless of the lighting position + source, supplemental lighting induced early fruit production and increased node number, fruit number (FN), and total fruit fresh weight (FW) for both cultivars compared with unsupplemented controls for a winter-to-summer production period. Furthermore, no productivity differences were measured between the two supplemental lighting treatments. The energy-consumption metrics indicated that the electrical conversion efficiency for light-emitting intracanopy lighting (LED-ICL) into fruit biomass was 75% higher than that for HPS-OHL. Thus, the lighting cost per average fruit grown under the HPS-OHL lamps was 403% more than that of using LED-ICL towers. Although no increase in yield was measured using LED-ICL, significant energy savings for lighting occurred without compromising fruit yield.

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