In the waning light of a winter day, UK crop producers are working to extend their harvest period. One way to do this is to increase the amount of light given to the plants. Growers in the past have relied on the sun and supplementary light of the High Pressure Sodium lamps lined up in their glasshouses. In recent years, however, there has been a growing interest in the use of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) that can be tailored to deliver the correct spectrum of wavelengths that a plant needs. LEDs are more efficient and last longer than the usual light sources and can also be used exclusively without the need for sunlight. The technology which is in its infancy is evolving rapidly but requires further research.
Moulton College Higher Education Student Jill Stewart has been running a series of ongoing trials with Arctic King Lettuce and Radish, under the direction of PhD Student Julia Lock and Senior Lecturer Dr James Littlemore. Her objective is to test the effect of LED lighting on growth within a grow tent versus a control grown inside a cold frame. Dr Wanda McCormick, Research and Knowledge Transfer Co-ordinator at Moulton College commented “The trial has produced some interesting and positive results which suggest that lettuce plant growth is enhanced when grown under PhytoLux's LED lights. We are looking forward to gaining more positive insights through the next stage of the trial”.
In order to further understand the ramifications of results from the trial both Jill and Julia attended the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) event ‘Manipulating Light for Horticulture’ at Stoneleigh Park. The range of speakers, including lecturers from Michigan State University and the University of Lincoln, provided a well-rounded view of the science, technological advances, and energy consumption of LEDs.
The surface has only just been scratched and the future integration of technology into our daily production of food will revolutionise the field-to-fork experience.
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