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Paul Deram, Mark G. Lefsrud and Valérie Orsat

Current greenhouse supplemental lighting technology uses broad-spectrum high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS) that, despite being an excellent luminous source, are not the most efficient light source for plant production. Specific light frequencies in the 400- to 700-nm range have been shown to affect photosynthesis more directly than other wavelengths (especially in the red and blue ranges). Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could diminish lighting costs as a result of their high efficiency, lower operating temperatures, and wavelength specificity. LEDs can be selected to target the wavelengths used by plants, enabling growers to customize the light produced, to enable maximum plant production and limit wavelengths that do not significantly impact plant growth. In our experiment, hydroponically grown tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum L.) were grown using a full factorial design with three light intensities (high: 135 μmol·m−2·s−1, medium: 115 μmol·m−2·s−1, and low: 100 μmol·m−2·s−1) at three red (661 nm) to blue (449 nm) ratio levels (5:1, 10:1, and 19:1). Secondary treatments for comparison were 100% HPS, 100% red LED light supplied from above the plant, 100% red LED light supplied below the plant, a 50%:50% LED:HPS mixture, and a control (no supplemental lighting). Both runs of the experiment lasted 120 days during the Summer–Fall 2011 and the Winter–Spring 2011–12. The highest biomass production (excluding fruit) occurred with the 19:1 ratio (red to blue) with increasing intensity resulting in more growth, whereas a higher fruit production was obtained using the 5:1 ratio. The highest marketable fruit production (fruit over 90 g) was obtained with the 50%:50% LED:HPS followed by 5:1 high and 19:1 high. Consistently the 5:1 high performed well in every category. LEDs have been shown to be superior in fruit production over HPS alone, and LEDs can improve tomato fruit production when mixed with HPS. LEDs provide a promising mechanism to enhance greenhouse artificial lighting systems.

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Mark G. Lefsrud and Dean A. Kopsell

Chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments were measured with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) during leaf development in kale (Brassicaoleracea L. var. acephala D.C). Lutein and β-carotene are two plant-derived carotenoids that possess important human health properties. Diets high in these carotenoids are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Kale plants were growth-chamber grown in nutrient solution culture at 20 °C under 500 μmol·m-2·s-1 of irradiance. Pigments were measured in young (<1 week), immature (1-2 weeks), mature (2-3 weeks), fully developed (3-4 weeks) and senescing (>4 weeks) leaves. Significant differences were measured for all four pigments during leaf development. Accumulation of the pigments followed a quadratic trend, with maximum accumulation occurring between the first and third week of leaf age. The highest concentrations of lutein were recorded in 1- to 2-week-old leaves at 15.1 mg per 100 g fresh weight. The remaining pigments reached maximum levels at 2-3 weeks, with β-carotene at 11.6 mg per 100 g, chlorophyll a at 251.4 mg per 100 g, and chlorophyll b at 56.9 mg per 100 g fresh weight. Identifying changes in carotenoid and chlorophyll accumulation over developmental stages in leaf tissues is applicable to “baby” leafy greens and traditional production practices for fresh markets.

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Mark G. Lefsrud and Dean A. Kopsell

Controlled plant growing systems have consistently used the standard earth day as the radiation cycle for plant growth. However, the radiation cycle can be controlled using automated systems to regulate the exact amount of time plants are exposed to irradiation (and darkness). This experiment investigated the influence of different radiation cycle periods on plant growth and carotenoid accumulation in kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala DC.). Plants were grown in a controlled environment using nutrient solutions under radiation cycle treatments of 2, 12, 24 and 48 hours, with 50% irradiance and 50% darkness during each cycle. The radiation cycles significantly affected kale fresh weight, dry weight, percent dry matter, and the accumulation of lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll a and b. Maximum fresh weight occurred under the 2-hour radiation cycle treatment, whereas maximum dry weight occurred under the 12-hour treatment. Maximum accumulation of lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll a occurred with the 12-hour radiation cycle at values of 14.5 mg/100 g, 13.1 mg/100 g, and 263.3 mg/100 g fresh weight respectively. Maximum fresh weight production of the kale was not linked to increases in chlorophyll, lutein, or β-carotene. Consumption of fruit and vegetable crops rich in lutein and β-carotene carotenoids is associated with reduced risk of cancers and aging eye diseases. Increased carotenoid concentrations in vegetable crops would therefore be expected to increase the value of these crops.

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Mark G. Lefsrud and Dean A. Kopsell

Plant growing systems have consistently utilized the standard Earth day as the radiation cycle for plant growth. However, the radiation cycle can easily be controlled by using automated systems to regulate the exact amount of time plants are exposed to irradiation (and darkness). This experiment investigated the influence of different radiation cycles on plant growth, chlorophyll and carotenoid pigment accumulation in kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala D.C). Kale plants were grown in growth chambers in nutrient solution culture under radiation cycle treatments of 2, 12, 24, and 48 h, with 50% irradiance and 50% darkness during each time period. Total irradiation throughout the experiment was the same for each treatment. Radiation cycle treatments significantly affected kale fresh mass, dry mass, chlorophyll a and b, lutein, and beta-carotene. Maximum fresh mass occurred under the 2-h radiation cycle treatment. The maximum dry mass occurred under the 12-h radiation cycle treatment, which coincided with the maximum accumulation of lutein, beta-carotene, and chlorophyll a, expressed on a fresh mass basis. The minimum fresh mass occurred during the 24 h radiation cycle treatment, which coincided with the largest chlorophyll b accumulation. Increased levels of chlorophyll, lutein and beta-carotene were not required to achieve maximum fresh mass production. Environmental manipulation of carotenoid production in kale is possible. Increases in carotenoid concentrations would be expected to increase their nutritional contribution to the diet.

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Mark G. Lefsrud, Dean A. Kopsell and Carl E. Sams

The use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for plant production is a new field of research that has great promise to optimize wavelength-specific lighting systems for precise management of plant physiological responses and important secondary metabolite production. In our experiment, hydroponically cultured kale plants (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala D.C.) were grown under specific LED wavelength treatments of 730, 640, 525, 440, and 400 nm to determine changes in the accumulation of chlorophylls, carotenoids, and glucosinolates. Maximum accumulation, on a fresh mass basis, of chlorophyll a and b and lutein occurred at the wavelength of 640 nm, whereas β-carotene accumulation peaked under the 440-nm treatment. However, when lutein was measured on a dry mass basis, maximum accumulation was shifted to 440 nm. Sinigrin was the only glucosinolate to respond to wavelength treatments. Wavelength control using LED technology can affect the production of secondary metabolites such as carotenoids and glucosinolates with irradiance levels also a factor in kale. Management of irradiance and wavelength may hold promise to maximize nutritional potential of vegetable crops grown in controlled environments.

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Dean A. Kopsell, David E. Kopsell, Mark G. Lefsrud, Joanne Curran-Celentano and Laura E. Dukach

Green leafy vegetables are important sources of dietary carotenoids, and members of Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala rank highest for reported levels of lutein and β-carotene. Twenty-three leafy B. oleracea cultigens were field grown under similar fertility over two separate years and evaluated for leaf lutein and β-carotene accumulation. Choice of B. oleracea cultigen and year significantly affected carotenoid levels. Lutein concentrations ranged from a high of 13.43 mg per 100 g fresh weight (FW) for B. oleracea var. acephala `Toscano' to a low of 4.84 mg/100 g FW for B. oleracea var. acephala 343-93G1. β-carotene accumulations ranged from a high of 10.00 mg/100 g FW for B. oleracea var. acephala `Toscano' to a low of 3.82 mg/100 g FW for B. oleracea var. acephala 30343-93G1. Carotenoid concentrations were significantly higher in year 2 than in year 1, but rank order among the cultigens for both lutein and ß-carotene did not change between the years. During each year, there were high correlations between leaf carotenoid and chlorophyll pigments. Under similar growing conditions, choice of B. oleracea cultigen will influence carotenoid accumulation, and this may affect the health benefits of consuming these leafy green vegetable crops.

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Mark G. Lefsrud, John C. Sorochan, Dean A. Kopsell and J. Scott McElroy

Heat-tolerant bluegrass varieties were developed to resist dormancy and retain pigmentation during heat stress events. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of grass species, nitrogen (N) fertilization, and seasonality on the accumulation patterns of lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll a and b in the leaf tissues of turfgrass. The heat-tolerant bluegrass cultivars Dura Blue and Thermal Blue (Poa pratensis L. × Poa arachnifera Torr.), Apollo kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), and Kentucky 31 tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) were compared for the accumulation of plant pigments. Evaluations were conducted over 2 consecutive years (Years 4 and 5 after establishment) during two different seasons (spring and summer) and under varying N fertilization. Fertilizer applications of 5, 14, and 27 g N/m2/year resulted in a significant positive correlation for the accumulation of leaf blade lutein and chlorophyll a and b, but not for β-carotene. The accumulation of the four measured plant pigments among the grasses was significantly different with ‘Apollo’ having the largest concentration of pigments followed by ‘Dura Blue’, ‘Thermal Blue’, and finally ‘Kentucky 31’. Specifically, when comparing the cultivars Apollo and Kentucky 31, the pigment levels decreased 27%, 26%, 26%, and 23% for lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll a and b, respectively. The interesting observation of the analysis of the grass pigment concentrations was that the least reported heat-tolerant cultivar in our study (‘Apollo’) had the largest measured pigment concentrations.

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Mark G. Lefsrud, Dean A. Kopsell, David E. Kopsell and Joanne Curran-Celentano

Crop plants are adversely affected by a variety of environmental factors, with air temperature being one of the most influential. Plants have developed a number of methods in the adaptation to air temperature variations. However, there is limited research to determine what impact air temperature has on the production of secondary plant compounds, such as carotenoid pigments. Kale (Brassica oleracea L.) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) have high concentrations of lutein and β-carotene carotenoids. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of different growing air temperatures on plant biomass production and the accumulation of elemental nutrients, lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll pigments in the leaves of kale and spinach. Plants were grown in nutrient solutions in growth chambers at air temperatures of 15, 20, 25, and 30 °C for `Winterbor' kale and 10, 15, 20, and 25 °C for `Melody' spinach. Maximum tissue lutein and β-carotene concentration occurred at 30 °C for kale and 10 °C for spinach. Highest carotenoid accumulations were 16.1 and 11.2 mg/100 g fresh mass for lutein and 13.0 and 10.9 mg/100 g fresh mass for β-carotene for the kale and spinach, respectively. Lutein and β-carotene concentration increased linearly with increasing air temperatures for kale, but the same pigments showed a linear decrease in concentration for increasing air temperatures for spinach. Quantifying the effects of air temperature on carotenoid accumulation in kale and spinach, expressed on a fresh mass basis, is important for growers producing these crops for fresh markets.

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Mark G. Lefsrud, Dean A. Kopsell, Robert M. Augé and A.J. Both

Consumption of fruit and vegetable crops rich in lutein and β-carotene carotenoids is associated with reduced risk of cancers and aging eye diseases. Kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala D.C.) ranks highest for lutein concentrations and is an excellent source of dietary carotenoids. Kale plants were grown under varied photoperiods to determine changes in the accumulation of fresh and dry biomass, chlorophyll a and b, and lutein and β-carotene carotenoids. The plants were cultured in a controlled environment using nutrient solutions under photoperiod treatments of 6, 12, 16, or 24 hours (continuous). Fresh and dry mass production increased linearly as photoperiod increased, reaching a maximum under the 24-hour photoperiod. Maximum accumulation of lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll b occurred under the 24-h photoperiod at 13.5, 10.4, and 58.6 mg/100 g fresh mass, respectively. However, maximum chlorophyll a (235.1 mg/100 g fresh mass) occurred under the 12-hour photoperiod. When β-carotene and lutein were measured on a dry mass basis, the maximum accumulation was shifted to the 16-hour photoperiod. An increase in photoperiod resulted in increased pigment accumulation, but maximum concentrations of pigments were not correlated with maximum biomass production.