Using LED grow lights and less watering will make the plants stronger

Hort Americas is currently working on a germination and propagation project for leafy vegetables and culinary herbs. The project is being carried out in collaboration with their demonstration greenhouse partners, the State Fair of Texas and Big Tex Urban Farms. Big Tex Urban Farms provide the manpower needed to grow and manage crops on site, while Hort Americas provides advice and oversight.

“For many leaf vegetable growers in the United States, the average growth cycle is 10 to 15 days in propagation from seed to transplant. Hort Americas challenges this concept by using LED grow lights and an ebb and flow irrigation standard to challenge that standard, ”said Chris Higgins, co-founder of Hort Americas.

With less water, a plant becomes stronger
Higgins adds, “While most of the industry is solely focused on LED lighting, we want to make sure we focus on all of the variables required to produce a stronger young plant. This means we need to pay special attention to our irrigation strategy and airflow. “He continues,” By drying out the substrate, we can push the roots down as they chase the water and nutrients. By improving the airflow, we can strengthen the plant while avoiding common pathogen problems. A stronger young plant allows us to finish faster and have a lot fewer problems in the process. It doesn’t learn from it. “

He says professional growers should develop a protocol to determine the water content of their substrate. Growers should not rely on a watering calendar, but rather on moisture content (which can also be measured by weighing the substrate. As the weight decreases, the product becomes drier). Then they set certain parameters that require irrigation. “All variables have to be in balance. If you add more light, your plants will dry out faster and the watering cycle will need to be faster. If the power goes out and you lose all of your light and it’s a dark time, in high humidity the plants will transpire a lot slower so you won’t have to water at all for so many days. ”

Affect plant roots
“The most notable results can be broken down into three characteristics,” says Higgins. “Consistency, consistency and profitability.” Growing under LEDs in this way (with continued emphasis on climate and irrigation) allows growers to get a more consistent, uniform, and ultimately more profitable harvest. “What we really influence is not the tip of the plant, but the development of the roots. The right spectrum of LEDs allows us to focus on root development as we change the structure of the top of the plans. This means that the plants stay longer in the reproduction area. We then saw that once the plants are transplanted to the finished growth density or spacing, they finish much faster. “Higgins confirmed.

Then there are other secondary benefits that Hort Americas has not yet quantified. This includes lower transplant loss while improving space requirements and work efficiency. In theory, this could lead to even greater benefits for establishments large enough to automate these processes, as more compact and uniformed facilities are well suited for automation. LED grow lights have allowed us to study the physical structure of the crop, which has enabled us to improve other aspects of growing and business strategies.

High density of plants
Higgins notes, “We try to keep the plants longer, from 17 to 21 days. Because in all areas, producers can afford to make the most investments. This is the area where we have the highest plant densities, which gives us the best use of real estate and the best chance of spreading our investments over the most plants. “

“We found that by combining the right light spectrum and the right irrigation strategy, we can grow a stronger young plant that will reach crop weight or yield in less time when transplanted into the finished growing space. Higgins notes. The goal is to increase efficiency, optimize the technology in that part of the farm where it has the highest value, and then increase consistency.

Improvement of the growth parameters
Her team not only focused on the quality of light, but also on climate management and the irrigation strategy. “We’re going to be much drier today than at the beginning. We want to make sure we don’t lose focus on airflow and a consistent environment, ”explains Higgins. He admits that the climate is the most difficult for them to manage because of the limited technology options at their Dallas, Texas facility. Their climate changes significantly at different times of the year. They do everything possible to limit the plant’s exposure to mold, powdery mildew, and other pathogens. If there is insufficient air movement, spores can form and multiply.

“Depending on the mounting system, we choose the right luminaire that best suits the mounting system. It doesn’t matter what kind of light it is. Most importantly, we select the right fixture, which is designed to deliver the light in the right amounts at the specified distances from the plant based on the structure of the growing system.

In a multi-layered cultivation area (vertical farm) we would use a light with a lower output because the lights are placed closer to the plant. If a grower has a grower propagation system, which is tables in a greenhouse, we would be using a top light style product. We need a light with more power and power so that we can remove the photons further. Any type of light can be used. All you have to do is ensure that the light is designed and constructed for the environment in which it will be used, ”explains Higgins.

Higgins says they want a more compact system. “This allows us to keep it in a higher plant density for a longer period of time.” These plants will then have less damage, regardless of whether they are transplanted to another location or whether they are transported and transported to another farm or greenhouse. In addition, the compactness makes it easy to handle, even when there is an automatic planter, and makes it easier for the robots to grab and transplant the plants. If the growth occurs at a higher density of plants and the plants get too large, they will overlap and cause inconsistencies.

For more informations:
Hoard Americas
Chris Higgins, Co-Founder and President of Hort Americas

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