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  • Author or Editor: Nathan Kelly x
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Anthocyanins are a group of human-health-promoting phenolic compounds that influence the pigmentation of red-leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Ultraviolet A (UVA; 315–399 nm) and blue (B; 400–499 nm) light can increase the concentrations of phenolic compounds but also suppress cellular expansion, which can limit harvestable biomass accumulation. It is not known whether UVA or B light is more effective at increasing phenolic compound concentrations when they are each applied at the same photon flux density. Our objective was to evaluate the efficacy of UVA and B light when added during the end of production (EOP) at promoting phenolic compound synthesis and red-leaf coloration without limiting biomass accumulation. We grew red-leaf lettuce ‘Rouxai’ in a controlled indoor environment at an air temperature of 22 °C under warm-white and red light-emitting diodes (LEDs). On day 24, 30 or 60 µmol·m−2·s−1 from UVA, B, UVA plus B, or red plus green LEDs was added during the last 6 days of the 30-day production period. UVA and B light, alone or combined, similarly increased leaf redness (by up to 72%), total phenolic concentration (by up to 92%), total anthocyanin concentration (by up to 2.7-fold), and relative chlorophyll concentration (by up to 20%) and did not inhibit growth, compared with lettuce grown without EOP supplemental lighting. Considering B light was as effective as UVA light at increasing leaf color and phytonutrient density and that B LEDs are more electrically effective, economical, and durable, an enriched blue-light spectrum at the EOP is a comparatively sustainable method to increase crop quality without suppressing biomass accumulation.

Open Access

In controlled environments, supplementing a light spectrum with ultraviolet A (UVA; 315–399 nm) or blue (B; 400–499 nm) light increases the concentrations of phenolic compounds that can increase quality attributes, such as leaf pigmentation and nutritional quality of lettuce (Lactuca sativa). However, B light and sometimes UVA light can inhibit leaf expansion and biomass accumulation when continuously applied, whereas applying it only at the end of the production cycle can increase lettuce quality with little to no effect on crop yield. Our objective was to quantify the persistency of periodic supplemental UVA or B light and compare end-of-production with continuously applied supplemental light during indoor lettuce production on quality attributes and biomass accumulation. We hypothesized that supplemental UVA or B light would be more effective later, rather than earlier, during production with increasing lettuce quality attributes. We grew ‘Rouxai’ red-leaf lettuce hydroponically at an air temperature of 23 °C under 75 μmol⋅m−2⋅s−1 of red (peak = 664 nm) plus 75 μmol⋅m−2⋅s−1 of warm-white light provided by light-emitting diodes. The supplemental lighting treatments consisted of adding 30 μmol⋅m−2⋅s−1 of UVA (peak= 386 nm) or B (peak = 449 nm) light during the seedling phase (P1; days 4–12), growth phase (P2; days 12–20), finishing phase (P3; days 20–28), or the entire time (ET; days 4–28). Supplemental UVA or B light applied at any individual phase did not inhibit biomass accumulation, whereas enriched B light during the entire production period inhibited fresh mass compared with no supplemental light. Additionally, supplemental UVA or B light during P3 or ET similarly increased total phenolic and anthocyanin concentrations. Finally, applying UVA or B light during P1 or P2 had no residual effect on mature plant growth or quality at harvest. We concluded that the end of the production cycle is the optimal time to apply supplemental UVA or B light to improve lettuce coloration and phenolic content, that earlier application elicits transient responses, and that continuous application improves lettuce quality but inhibits biomass accumulation. Finally, there are potential energy savings by using end-of-production supplemental light compared with continuous application of the same spectrum.

Open Access