LED Lighting In Greenhouses: Is It For You?

LED Lights

The basic needs of a crop are clear to any grower who has been through a growing cycle. Why, then, if light is one of the bare necessities of a plant, is it one of the least understood factors of greenhouse growing?

According to Dr. Johann Buck of Hort Americas, LLC, it’s a little more complicated than it seems.

“With numerous units of measurement such as the footcandle, lux, lumen, Watts per square meter, micromoles per square meter per second, moles per day, and associated abbreviations such as PPF, PPFD, and DLI, it’s easy to get confused,” he explains.

In addition, Buck says lighting often isn’t deemed as important as plant nutrition. “Many cut costs by reducing temperature and proper lighting,” he says. “If one of these components is deficient, it can affect the overall growth and quality of the crop.”

Barry Goldsher, president of Growers Supply at FarmTek, agrees. “It’s important to supplement natural light in greenhouses to allow for longer days as well as to overcome obstacles that reduce light transmission,” he says. “Greenhouse glazing, any hanging equipment, and the greenhouse frames themselves can all block light.”

The Ups And The Downs

With supplemental lighting being necessary due to the essence of the greenhouse structure itself, one has to wonder why LED (light-emitting diode) lighting, which is often hailed as the most energy efficient source of illumination, is not being used everywhere.

One reason is the expense of installing LED lighting, says Goldsher.
“The return on investment depends on several factors including the crop/application, production method, interlighting, photoperiodic lighting, cost per kWh of electricity, number of hours of operation, desired light intensity, etc.,” adds Buck.

“In a system-to-system comparison, HID (high intensity discharge) and LED are essentially equal, with HID being a less expensive capital investment,” he continued.

One caveat does apply, however. “The cost of maintenance is less with LEDs,” says Buck. “Within the next three to five years, LEDs designed for horticulture have the potential to replace HID lamps in greenhouse lighting.”

The varying opinions on cost and return could be because “LED manufacturers base their formulas on indoor growing [growers producing in structures such as warehouses] rather than commercial greenhouse growing,” adds Ron James of PARSource Greenhouse Lighting. “Commercial growers are not running lights year round like indoor growers. They are typically running four months out of the year.”

The end result is the return on the investment can take much longer than anticipated, says James. Another drawback he mentions is it is often difficult for growers to see disease symptoms under LED lights.
 
Benefits Of LED

There is no doubt, though, that LED lighting has its benefits. According to James, the spectral output is much better in LEDs than in other lamps.
Buck adds that the lifetime of the light itself is an often mentioned advantage. “LEDs allow growers to place shelves closer together compared to shelves using fluorescent lighting,” he adds.

Goldsher mentions lower energy bills and that “light intensity is greatest if the light source is closer to the plant. LED lights produce no heat so they can be almost on top of the plants.”

Colored lights are another benefit. Available in different colors, this is a draw for various reasons.

“The [colored lights] are combined depending on the crop,” explains Buck. “For example, blue and red LEDs are often found together since each color is beneficial for photosynthesis.”

Another major benefit is that LED lights can mimic the light of the sun. “Photons are photons, regardless of the lighting source,” concludes Buck. “As long as they are in the right waveband and provide the correct amount of energy to elicit a photosynthetic response, they’ll work.”   

Leave a Reply

5 comments on “LED Lighting In Greenhouses: Is It For You?

  1. This is definitely an interesting topic and warrants further research. Keep us apprised.

  2. i am building a Greenhouse 12' wide–24' long –12' hight 2 sections inside on raized 2'bed 9'x9'EACH sections for vegetable i will have approsimately full sun only between 2 pm and 5 pm rest is filter light from tree, like to purchased grow light L E D multy color pannel WHAT TIPE WILL I NEED AND WILL I BE ABLE TO GROW ALL VEGETABLE ?

Featured Stories
Andrew (left) and Steve Beilstein use an air dancer, pictured in the background, as a bird-scaring device at The Blueberry Patch in Lexington, OH.  (Photo credit: Gary Gao)
Berries
July 27, 2016
Bird Damage Plagues Most Fruit Growers
There’s no silver bullet, but here are several techniques to annoy and deter birds. Read More
precision ag vision conference
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Ag Tech Is Hot On Horticulture; Get A Handle On What This Means For You
As evidenced by the recent AgTech Summit hosted by Forbes magazine in Salinas, CA, action in precision farming and the Read More
These wildflowers, planted near a California almond orchard, can be extremely effective in aiding pollinators. (Photo credit: Katharina Ullmann, Xerces Society)
Production
July 27, 2016
Survey: Fruit And Vegetable Growers Support Pollinators
Most of the berry, almond, melon, pumpkin, and tree fruit growers surveyed are being careful about how they manage their farms to minimize pesticide impacts and improve bees’ habitats. Read More
potato late blight leaves
Potatoes
July 27, 2016
Hail Hammers Potato Crops In North Dakota
Storms have wreaked havoc on crops in the Peace Garden State. Read More
cash money in hand
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Stockholders OK Dow, DuPont Merger
Companies intend to separate into three, independent companies. Read More
Tall Spindle Axe featured
Stone Fruit
July 26, 2016
Take A Closer Look At The Tall Spindle Axe Training System
One of the more traditional three-dimensional canopies, Tall Spindle Axe data shows consistent early and sustained yields. Read More
Workers picking in a Florida strawberry field
Berries
July 26, 2016
Wish Farms Commits $100K To Food Safety Cause
Central Florida berry operation will donate $20,000 annually over the next five years to fund various research projects backed by the Center for Produce Safety. Read More
Spanish speaking employees
Fruits
July 26, 2016
Popular Spanish-Speaking Fruit Summer Tour Returns
Second-annual tour designed to educate Spanish-speaking employees or farmworkers on fruit growing practices. Read More
Feature Im-Perfect-Wal-Mart-Fruit-Apples (Photo credit: Walmart)
Apples & Pears
July 26, 2016
Walmart Begins Selling So-Called ‘Ugly Fruit’
Cosmetically challenged apples are the company’s first foray into a global movement to cut food waste. Read More
Bee Sperm - Washington State University Cryo Lab (Photo credit: WSU)
Production
July 26, 2016
Importing Frozen Honeybee Sperm Is Key To Conservation
The Washington State University (WSU) bee program has worked with researchers from around the world to create more honeybee genetic repositories like the one at WSU. Read More
The Latest
Berries
July 27, 2016
Bird Damage Plagues Most Fruit Growers
There’s no silver bullet, but here are several techniques to annoy and deter birds. Read More
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Ag Tech Is Hot On Horticulture; Get A Ha…
As evidenced by the recent AgTech Summit hosted by Forbes magazine in Salinas, CA, action in precision farming and the Read More
Production
July 27, 2016
Survey: Fruit And Vegetable Growers Supp…
Most of the berry, almond, melon, pumpkin, and tree fruit growers surveyed are being careful about how they manage their farms to minimize pesticide impacts and improve bees’ habitats. Read More
Potatoes
July 27, 2016
Hail Hammers Potato Crops In North Dakot…
Storms have wreaked havoc on crops in the Peace Garden State. Read More
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Stockholders OK Dow, DuPont Merger
Companies intend to separate into three, independent companies. Read More
Stone Fruit
July 26, 2016
Take A Closer Look At The Tall Spindle A…
One of the more traditional three-dimensional canopies, Tall Spindle Axe data shows consistent early and sustained yields. Read More
Berries
July 26, 2016
Wish Farms Commits $100K To Food Safety …
Central Florida berry operation will donate $20,000 annually over the next five years to fund various research projects backed by the Center for Produce Safety. Read More
Fruits
July 26, 2016
Popular Spanish-Speaking Fruit Summer To…
Second-annual tour designed to educate Spanish-speaking employees or farmworkers on fruit growing practices. Read More
Apples & Pears
July 26, 2016
Walmart Begins Selling So-Called ‘…
Cosmetically challenged apples are the company’s first foray into a global movement to cut food waste. Read More
Production
July 26, 2016
Importing Frozen Honeybee Sperm Is Key T…
The Washington State University (WSU) bee program has worked with researchers from around the world to create more honeybee genetic repositories like the one at WSU. Read More
GenNext Growers
July 26, 2016
Tour Dedicated To Next Generation Tree F…
Newly formed Next Generation Tree Fruit Alliance to tour orchards, network. Read More
Farm Management
July 26, 2016
Mexico Has Potential For U.S. Sweet Pota…
Assessment concluded that opportunities abound if Mexican buyers better understand grades, sizes, and quality of U.S. product. Read More
Crop Protection
July 25, 2016
Study: GMO Ban Would Hurt Economy And En…
Food prices and greenhouse gas emissions would rise, according to paper by Purdue University agricultural economist. Read More
Farm Management
July 25, 2016
Seven Reasons You Need To Attend The Uni…
Education sessions and Capitol Hill visits will focus on key issues, such as labor, facing the fresh produce industry. Read More
Tomatoes
July 25, 2016
New Research Uncovers Gene That May Be K…
Scientists identify a gene that encodes an enzyme which plays a pivotal role in controlling tomato softening. Read More
Crop Protection
July 25, 2016
Organic Insect Control Product Available…
The mycoinsecticide is EPA registered and controls a variety of insect pests. Read More
Citrus Achievement Award
July 25, 2016
Citrus Achievement Award Winner: Adaptin…
Marty McKenna says hurdles like HLB forces growers to step up their game, which is a good thing. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
July 22, 2016
Marco Rubio Backs Bill To Save Florida C…
Senator co-sponsors measure that would provide growers with incentives to plant more trees. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]