Can LED lighting offer an economic way to bring fresh, locally grown cucumbers to consumers in the Nordics and Eastern Europe in the winter months? The answer is yes according to a recent growth trial carried out by Philips Horticulture LED Solutions, the leading provider of LED lighting solutions for the horticulture industry, and Warsaw University of Life Sciences, one of the top one hundred international universities in agriculture and forestry. The trial compared cucumbers grown under a) 100% LED lighting, b) a combination of high intensity discharge (HID) toplighting and LED interlighting and c) HID toplighting alone.
“The 100% LED compartment produced a 24.8% higher yield, used 1.4 less liters of water per kilogram, and reduced energy costs by 60%,” says Professor Janina Gajc-Wolska, Department of Vegetables and Medicinal Plants at Warsaw University of Life Sciences. “Consumers also preferred the taste of the cucumbers grown under 100% LED lighting, saying they tasted slightly sweeter and less watery.”

Less energy & water, higher yields

This trial proved that cucumbers grow really well under 100% LED and it is the most cost-effective way to produce cucumbers in late autumn and early spring. “You think you are getting a lot of ‘free’ heat with HID lights, but they actually deliver heat at the wrong moment during the day and a lot of it is lost into the air. It also results in a loss of CO2 due to ventilating, which could be used for production,” says Professor Gajc-Wolska.

Fresh, tasty and locally grown

During the winter months many countries in the Nordics and Eastern Europe rely heavily on cucumbers imported from countries in Southern Europe. It is simply too expensive to produce cucumbers using conventional HID lighting, which uses a great deal of energy and produces high levels of heat. “Our latest Philips LED lighting modules are extremely energy efficient and produce very little heat,” says Udo van Slooten, General Manager of Philips Horticulture LED Solutions. “By using a full LED lighting system, growers can cost-effectively produce fresh, tasty vegetables that are grown locally instead of being transported from the other side of Europe. There is a great demand for this from their local consumers.”

More kilos of fruit per square meter

In the 100% LED treatment compartment, there were much lower rates of fruit abortion and individual fruits were significantly heavier. Although each individual fruit was fairly the same size, a medium-sized cucumber grown with 100% LED weighed 200-210 grams versus up to 190 grams for those produced under HIDs. That means growers can harvest more kilos per square meter to increase their profits.

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