As light bulb manufacturers phase out the production of incandescent bulbs, growers are looking for replacements to control flowering of ornamental plants. Researchers at Michigan State University have compared the efficiency and efficacy of LEDs for flowering applications with traditional light sources including incandescent, fluorescent and high-pressure sodium lamps.

by David Kuack for Hort Americas

“After we determined that LEDs were as effective at controlling flowering as other traditional light sources, we began to look more closely at how different wavebands emitted by LEDs actually regulate different aspects of flowering and photomorphogenesis,” said Michigan State Ph.D. graduate research assistant Qingwu (William) Meng. “In our experiments we used experimental LEDs manufactured by a company in Japan called CCS and commercial LEDs from Philips Lighting. For this particular study we used four different LEDs that are commercially available to growers to control flowering.”

If red or far red are the predominant wavebands provided by LED lamps, 1-2 micromoles per square meter per second should be effective for speeding up the flowering of long-day crops. Photo courtesy of William Meng, Mich. St. Univ.

Meng used an Apogee spectroradiometer to collect data from the four different LEDs.

“We measured the spectral output from 350 nanometers to 850 nanometers,” Meng said. “We were able to measure the total light intensity from each of the four lamps to quantify the exact spectral distribution.”

Lamp placement impacts light intensity
Meng said he did not compare the light output data he collected with data reported by the light manufacturers.

“It is relatively difficult to find light intensity data from some of the light manufacturers,” he said. “What some companies report in regards to light output is the total photon flux from the light source captured by an integrating sphere device that we don’t have here at Michigan State. Others show a graph of the emission spectrum, but the spectral data are not available.

“For greenhouse flowering applications the lamps can be installed at different heights. Depending on the distance between the bottom of the light source and the plant canopy, there can be different levels of light intensity. Even though a light may be advertised to have a very high light output, if the lamps are hung high above the plant surface then growers are going to get a lower light intensity at the plant level. It is very situational and depends on how far apart the lights are spaced out in the greenhouse and how high the lights are installed above the plant canopy.”

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