The USDA works to build and maintain the largest collection of maize germplasm in the world. At the USDA-ARS station in Ames Iowa, scientists work hard to solve some of the nation’s most difficult agricultural problems. “We know that many maize accessions can be quite difficult to grow …It’s a crop that experiences difficulties and sometimes barriers due to variable quality of sunlight throughout the year” says Jake Holley, LumiGrow Plant Scientist.
Researchers at the USDA facility have chosen LEDs to light many of their corn and soybean crops, seeing benefits from low ambient temperatures, energy-efficiency, and spectral control capabilities. “Growing crops that have the potential to influence the entire US commercial hybrid corn market is an endeavor that our research team takes very seriously”, says LumiGrow VP of Research Melanie Yelton.
With corn being such a tall crop, the pollen matures prematurely due to higher heat close to the HPS lights. Using the LumiGrow Pro 650 fixtures, the USDA facility has been able to significantly reduce the risk of heat damage to their corn.
The USDA has also begun to implement spectral control strategies with the goal of controlling flowering times and influencing plant characteristics. “With the LumiGrow fixtures we can adjust the light spectra to elicit desired crop characteristics by staging light treatments across a growth cycle. Preliminary results from tests run at the USDA are already showing that under blue light treatments, plants are flowering 3 days earlier. Under red light treatments they’ve seen thicker stocks and more vegetative growth. It’s exciting to hear about successful implementation of spectral control strategies in such a profound research setting,” says Plant Scientist Jake Holley.
The USDA is a major example of how spectral control and the use of LEDs can achieve significant results in a research or commercial setting. The LumiGrow Research Team works to further build this body of knowledge around spectral science. “It’s truly amazing what’s possible when applying light as a growth variable for crops,” says LumiGrow VP of Research Melanie Yelton. “We’re seeing many research and commercial institutions utilize similar strategies as the USDA, across a broad array of vegetables, flowers, and medicinal crops. The methodology applied often remains similar. What we’re doing here is making the discoveries that will guide our growers. The goal is to use light to drive the most efficient production possible, and we’re really making some exciting advancements.”
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