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.
Gioia D. Massa, Jeffery C. Emmerich, Robert C. Morrow, C. Michael Bourget, and Cary A. Mitchell
Robert W. Langhans and Mauricio Salamanca
With the primary objective of assuring food safety at the production level, a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plan was developed and implemented in an 8000-ft2 greenhouse producing 1000 heads of lettuce per day in Ithaca, N.Y. The plan was developed following the HACCP principles and application guidelines published by the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (1997). The CEA glass greenhouse uses both artificial high-pressure sodium lamps and a shade curtain for light control. Temperature is controlled via evaporative cooling and water heating. Lettuce plants are grown in a hydroponic pond system and are harvested on day 35 from day of seeding. Known and reasonable risks from chemical, physical, and microbiological hazards were defined during the hazard analysis phase. Critical control points were identified in the maintenance of the pond water, the operation of evaporative coolers, shade curtains, and during harvesting and storage. Appropriate prerequisite programs were implemented before the HACCP plan as a baseline for achieving minimum working conditions. Proper critical limits for some potential hazards were established and monitoring programs set up to control them. Postharvest handling was setup in an adjacent head house that was adapted as a food manufacturing facility according to New York State Dept. of Agriculture and Markets standards. Potential applications will be discussed.
Elisa Solis-Toapanta, Paul R. Fisher, and Celina Gómez
Interest in hydroponic home gardening has increased in recent years. However, research is lacking on minimum inputs required to consistently produce fresh produce using small-scale hydroponic systems for noncommercial purposes. Our objectives were to 1) evaluate the effect of biweekly nutrient solution replacements (W) vs. biweekly fertilizer addition without a nutrient solution replacement (W/O) on final growth, yield, and nutrient uptake of hydroponic tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants grown in a greenhouse, and 2) characterize growth over time in a greenhouse or an indoor environment using W. For each environment, ‘Bush Goliath’ tomato plants were grown for 12 weeks in 6.5-gal hydroponic systems. The experiment was replicated twice over time. In the greenhouse, plants were exposed to the following day/night temperature, relative humidity (RH), and daily light integral (DLI) in 2018 (mean ± SD): 31 ± 6/22 ± 2 °C, 67% ± 8%, and 32.4 ± 7 mol·m‒2·d‒1; and in 2019: 28 ± 6/22 ± 3 °C, 68% ± 5%, and 27.7 ± 6 mol·m‒2·d‒1. For both experimental runs indoors, the day/night temperature, RH, and DLI were 21 ± 2 °C, 60% ± 4%, and 20 ± 2 mol·m‒2·d‒1 provided by broadband white light-emitting diode lamps. The W/O treatment resulted in a higher-than-desired electrical conductivity (EC) and total nutrient concentration by the end of the experiment. In addition, compared with the W treatment, W/O resulted in less leaf area, more shoot growth, less water uptake, and similar fruit number—but increased blossom-end-rot incidence, delayed fruit ripening, and lower fruit fresh weight. Nonetheless, the final concentration of all nutrients was almost completely depleted at week 12 under W, suggesting that the applied fertilizer concentration could be increased as fruiting occurs. Surprisingly, shoot biomass, leaf area, and leaf number followed a linear trend over time in both environments. Nonetheless, given the higher DLI and temperature, greenhouse-grown plants produced 4 to 5 kg more of fruit than those grown indoors, but fruit from plants grown indoors were unaffected by blossom-end-rot. Our findings indicate that recommendations for nutrient solution management strategies should consider specific crop needs, growing environments, and production goals by home gardeners.
Celina Gómez, Christopher J. Currey, Ryan W. Dickson, Hye-Ji Kim, Ricardo Hernández, Nadia C. Sabeh, Rosa E. Raudales, Robin G. Brumfield, Angela Laury-Shaw, Adam K. Wilke, Roberto G. Lopez, and Stephanie E. Burnett
The term controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) was first introduced in the 1960s and refers to an intensive approach for controlling plant growth and development by capitalizing on advanced horticultural techniques and innovations in technology
Daniel P. Gillespie, Chieri Kubota, and Sally A. Miller
Rootzone pH affects nutrient availability for plants. Hydroponic leafy greens are grown in nutrient solutions with pH 5.5 to 6.5. Lower pH may inhibit plant growth, whereas pathogenic oomycete growth and reproduction may be mitigated. General understanding of pH effects on nutrient availability suggests likely toxicity and deficiency of specific micronutrients. We hypothesized that if adjustments are made to the micronutrient concentrations in solution, plants will grow in lower-than-conventional pH without nutrient disorders, while oomycete disease incidence and severity may be reduced. To develop a new nutrient solution management strategy, we examined pH of 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, and 5.5 with or without micronutrient adjustments for growing two cultivars of basil plants Dolce Fresca and Nufar in a greenhouse hydroponic deep-water culture (DWC) system. Micronutrient adjustments included reduced concentrations of copper, zinc, manganese, and boron by one-half and doubled molybdenum concentration. Plants harvested 20 to 28 days after transplanting did not show significant effects of pH or the micronutrient adjustment. Phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, manganese, and zinc concentrations in leaves significantly declined, while potassium and aluminum concentrations increased with decreasing pH. However, these changes and therefore micronutrient adjustments did not affect basil plant growth significantly. ‘Nufar’ basil plants were then grown in a growth chamber DWC system at pH 4.0 or a conventional 5.5 with and without inoculation of Pythium aphanidermatum zoospores. Fourteen days after inoculation, P. aphanidermatum oospore production was confirmed only for the inoculated plants in pH 5.5 solution, where a significant reduction of plant growth was observed. The results of the present study indicate that maintaining nutrient solution pH at 4.0 can effectively suppress the severity of root rot caused by P. aphanidermatum initiated by zoospore inoculation without influencing basil growth.
Daniel P. Gillespie, Gio Papio, and Chieri Kubota
Hydroponic leafy green production offers high productivity and quality of crops but requires good management of pH and electrical conductivity (EC) to optimize the nutrient uptake. Nutrient solution pH is typically managed between 5.5 and 6.5, whereas lowering pH to more acidic range (e.g., <5.0) can potentially mitigate problematic waterborne diseases. Plant response to low pH is species specific and generally involves direct effect of increased hydronium ions and indirect effects of pH-dependent factors, such as low cations availability. To develop a new hydroponic nutrient management strategy, ‘Corvair’ spinach plants were grown under pH 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, and 5.5 of a hydroponic nutrient solution using a deep-water culture system in a growth chamber. Spinach shoot and root mass after 19 to 20 days declined with lowering pH. At the lowest pH of 4.0, plants displayed stunted overall growth and severely inhibited root development. Plant growth and morphology at pH 4.5 or 5.0 were normal but small, suggesting that growth reduction at these pH was likely a result of reduced nutrient uptake. Plant tissue analyses showed decreased N, P, K, Mg, S, Cu, Fe, Mn, and Zn concentration as pH decreased. When the strength of nutrient solution was increased three times at a low pH 4.5 to improve the overall nutrient availability, spinach shoot and root fresh weight with high nutrient concentrations (EC 3.4 dS·m−1) significantly improved but was still lower than those in the control (pH 5.5 and EC 1.4 dS·m−1), respectively. Plant tissue analysis showed that lowering pH to 4.5 significantly reduced tissue concentrations of P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Cu, Mn, and Zn compared with those in the control. Under low pH and increased EC treatment (pH 4.5 and EC 3.4 dS·m−1), all dry leaf nutrient concentrations were similar or higher than those of the control, except Mg and Zn, which showed a lower concentration than the control with a weak significance (P < 0.06). This suggests that additional optimization of nutrient formula might further improve the spinach growth at low pH. Together, our results will help to develop a new and low-cost nutrient management methodology to produce leafy greens hydroponically.
Andrea Stuemky and Mark E. Uchanski
months of the year. Producing an edible horticulture crop using this combination of factors is called controlled environmental agriculture, or CEA ( Bradford et al., 2010 ; Hamano et al., 2016 ). Although moving production of high-value crops indoors
Arlie A. Powell, Karl Harker, Roger Getz, and Eugene H. Simpson
In order to provide timely weather information to county agents (CEA) and growers, a sophisticated user friendly weather information program was developed that provides over 900 weather files daily to users. This program uses a 420 Sun Server that automatically downloads files from the NWS office on the AU campus and makes them instantly available to CEA offices via the Extension Network. Growers may obtain information from CEAS or use their personal computers to access a “Weather Board”. A chilling/growing degree hour (GDH) model (mod. 45) has been developed for peaches that provides a good estimate of when rest is completed and allows prediction of phenological stages through flowering. This information assists growers with orchard management decisions. Studies with peaches were conducted using the chilling/GDH model to properly apply hydrogen cyanamide (Dormex) to replace lack of chilling. This work resulted in an effective application timing based on chilling accumulation and allowed development of a forecast model for grower use.
Norman R. Scott, Corinne Johnson Rutzke, and Louis D. Albright
One of the deterrents to the commercial adoption of controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) on a broad scale is the significant energy cost for lighting and thermal environmental control. Advances in energy conversion technologies, such as internal combustion engines (ICs), microturbines and fuel cells, offer the potential for combined heat and power (CHP) systems, which can be matched with the needs of CEA to reduce fossil-based fuels consumption. A principal concept delineated is that an integrated entrepreneurial approach to create business and community partnerships can enhance the value of energy produced (both electrical and heat). Energy production data from a commercial dairy farm is contrasted with energy use data from two greenhouse operations with varying energy-input requirements. Biogass produced from a 500-cow dairy combined with a 250-kW fuel cell could meet nearly all of the energy needs of both the dairy and an energy-intensive 740-m2 CEA greenhouse lettuce facility. The data suggest CEA greenhouses and other closely compatible enterprises can be developed to significantly alter agriculture, as we have known it.
Arlie A. Powell, Roger Getz, and Eugene H. Simpson III
An agricultural weather program has been developed in Alabama and is available on the ACENET computer network of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES). This program involves the coordinated efforts of the National Weather Service (NWS), ACES and grower organizations. The program began in March 1987 and has been upgraded several times. Hardware now being used includes a Sun Microsystem SPARC station by NWS and a Sun Microsystems Server Model 4/280 by ACES. Existing and experimental NWS forecast products are disseminated to each of Alabama's 67 county agents offices (CEAs) and to local producers using ACES' computer network. A comprehensive selection of climate and weather related information is available to ACES staff including a widely used freeze alert program. Very detailed freeze forecasts and related information is available to users hourly, 7 days a week. A specialist prepared commentary further enhances use of information during each freeze event. Considerable cost savings have been realized by producers. A pilot program is being initiated in 1991 to incorporate data from several real time weather stations into the system.