Studying optimal lighting conditions keeping transplants healthy and high quality

Producing vegetable transplants – small starter plants for growers to begin gardens with – is a “budding” industry in Kentucky. Lark Wuetcher, senior horticulture major at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is helping Kentuckians address potential industry issues by studying the optimal lighting conditions needed to keep transplants in the Bluegrass healthy and high quality.

Wuetcher’s project focuses on the influence of daily light integral on the growth, morphology, and quality of vegetable transplants. Garrett Owen, assistant professor in the UK Department of Horticulture and Wuetcher’s adviser for this project, defined daily light integral as the cumulative and integrated measurement of light intensity and duration of light exposure a plant receives in a 24-hour period. Owen also said daily light integral changes depending on geographical location, season, day length, greenhouse glazing material and infrastructure, and a variety of other factors.

The goal of the study is to determine the optimal DLI for Kentucky growers to achieve the best transplant quality and to help them learn how to reach and maintain target DLIs throughout the year.

According to the 2017 UK cooperative extension publication “Vegetable Transplant Production,” there is a large demand for vegetable transplants and young plants across the state. All sizes of growing operations, from commercial to home gardens, use transplants. Owen explained that DLI is especially important in the transplant industry because low light can lead to poorly rooted young plants with an increased likelihood of damaging and breaking transplants during planting.

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