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Robert C. Morrow

Solid-state lighting based on the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is potentially one of the biggest advancements in horticultural lighting in decades. LEDs can play a variety of roles in horticultural lighting, including use in controlled environment research, lighting for tissue culture, and supplemental and photoperiod lighting for greenhouses. LED lighting systems have several unique advantages over existing horticultural lighting, including the ability to control spectral composition, the ability to produce very high light levels with low radiant heat output when cooled properly, and the ability to maintain useful light output for years without replacement. LEDs are the first light source to have the capability of true spectral composition control, allowing wavelengths to be matched to plant photoreceptors to provide more optimal production and to influence plant morphology and composition. Because they are solid-state devices, LEDs are easily integrated into digital control systems, facilitating special lighting programs such as “daily light integral” lighting and sunrise and sunset simulations. LEDs are safer to operate than current lamps because they do not have glass envelopes or high touch temperatures, and they do not contain mercury. The first sustained work with LEDs as a source of plant lighting occurred in the mid-1980s to support the development of new lighting systems to be used in plant growth systems designed for research on the space shuttle and space station. These systems progressed from simple red-only LED arrays using the limited components available at the time to high-density, multicolor LED chip-on-board devices. As light output increases while device costs decrease, LEDs continue to move toward becoming economically feasible for even large-scale horticultural lighting applications.

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Dean A. Kopsell, Carl E. Sams and Robert C. Morrow

Light is one of the most important environmental stimuli impacting plant growth and development. Plants have evolved specialized pigment-protein complexes, commonly referred to as photoreceptors, to capture light energy to drive photosynthetic processes, as well as to respond to changes in light quality and quantity. Blue light can act as a powerful environmental signal regulating phototropisms, suppression of stem elongation, chloroplast movements, stomatal regulation, and cell membrane transport activity. An emerging application of light-emitting diode (LED) technology is for horticultural plant production in controlled environments. Work by our research group is measuring important plant responses to different wavelengths of light from LEDs. We have demonstrated positive impacts of blue wavelengths on primary and secondary metabolism in microgreen and baby leafy green brassica crops. Results show significant increases in shoot tissue pigments, glucosinolates, and essential mineral elements following exposure to higher percentages of blue wavelengths from LED lighting. The perception of energy-rich blue light by specialized plant photoreceptors appears to trigger a cascade of metabolic responses, which is supported by current research showing stimulation of primary and secondary metabolite biosynthesis following exposure to blue wavelengths. Management of the light environment may be a viable means to improve concentrations of nutritionally important primary and secondary metabolites in specialty vegetable crops.

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Gioia D. Massa, Jeffery C. Emmerich, Robert C. Morrow, C. Michael Bourget and Cary A. Mitchell

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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Celina Gómez, Robert C. Morrow, C. Michael Bourget, Gioia D. Massa and Cary A. Mitchell

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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Dean A. Kopsell, Carl E. Sams, T. Casey Barickman and Robert C. Morrow

Previous research in our group demonstrated that short-duration exposure to narrow-band blue wavelengths of light can improve the nutritional quality of sprouting broccoli (Brassica oleacea var. italica) microgreens. The objective of this study was to measure the impact of different percentages of blue light on the concentrations of nutritional quality parameters of sprouting broccoli microgreens and to compare incandescent/fluorescent light with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Microgreen seeds were cultured hydroponically on growing pads under light treatments of: 1) fluorescent/incandescent light; 2) 5% blue (442 to 452 nm)/95% red (622 to 632 nm); 3) 5% blue/85% red/10% green (525 to 535 nm); 4) 20% blue/80% red; and 5) 20% blue/70% red/10% green in controlled environments. Microgreens were grown at an air temperature of 24 °C and a 16-hour photoperiod using a light intensity of 250 μmol·m−2·s−1 for all light treatments. On emergence of the first true leaf, a nutrient solution of 42 mg·L−1 nitrogen (N) (20% Hoagland’s #2 solution) was used to submerge the growing pads. Microgreens were harvested after 20 days under the light treatments and shoot tissues were processed and measured for nutritionally important shoot pigments, glucosinolates, and mineral nutrients. Microgreens under the fluorescent/incandescent light treatment had significantly lower shoot fresh mass than plants under the 5% blue/95% red, 5% blue/85% red/10% green, and the 20% blue/80% red LED light treatments. The highest concentrations of shoot tissue chlorophyll, β-carotene, lutein, total carotenoids, calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn), glucoiberin, glucoraphanin, 4-methoxyglucobrassicin, and neoglucobrassicin were found in microgreens grown under the 20% blue/80% red light treatment. In general, the fluorescent/incandescent light treatment resulted in significantly lower concentrations of most metabolites measured in the sprouting broccoli tissue. Results from the current study clearly support data from many previous reports that describe stimulation of primary and secondary metabolite biosynthesis by exposure to blue light wavelengths from LEDs.