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GLASE consortium aims to improve greenhouse energy efficiency

Even though the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is New York-based, the research it is doing has the potential to impact controlled environment agriculture worldwide.

The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is a partnership between Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Albany, N.Y. The consortium will be conducting research to improve controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operations including reducing energy consumption.

 

 

The goal of the consortium is to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. Although the focus of the research will be on greenhouse production, the findings should also have application to indoor CEA production including vertical farms and warehouses. Greenhouses, which can be electricity-intensive depending on the level of automation, cover 720 acres in New York State. The consortium is looking to reduce greenhouse electricity use and concomitant carbon emission by 70 percent and to increase crop yields by 2030.

Erico Mattos, who was appointed executive director of GLASE in June, said he has been hired as a subcontractor by Cornell University and will be working to recruit industry members to join the consortium.

“Currently I have a 50 percent time appointment with GLASE,” Mattos said. “My time with GLASE will increase as we bring in industry members. I am living in Georgia, but will be moving to upstate New York over the next year and will be located between RPI in Albany and Cornell University in Ithaca.”

Mattos said GLASE is a seven-year project which has received $5 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The money will be used to sponsor research between Cornell and RPI.

“The team leaders who will be doing the research are Neil Mattson at Cornell University and Tessa Pocock at RPI,” said Mattos. “They have a set of more than 300 milestones that their teams have to reach. They have already achieved some of these milestones.”

The research activities include improving lighting fixtures and systems that synergistically control lighting, ventilation, humidity and carbon dioxide, improving CEA operations and reducing energy consumption to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry.

“The teams at Cornell and RPI are well equipped with the resources they need to achieve the milestones of the core research proposal that has been sponsored by NYSERDA,” he said. “Even though the teams led by Neil and Tessa are completely self-sustainable, they may require some outside partnerships to achieve some of the goals.”

The GLASE consortium is headed by researchers Tessa Pocock at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Neil Mattson at Cornell University and GLASE executive director Erico Mattos.
Photo courtesy of GLASE

Mattos said in his role as executive director he will act as an intermediary between Cornell, RPI and NYSERDA making sure that the research is proceeding and that milestones are being completed on time.

“The most important part of my position is to create a consortium with industry members,” Mattos said. “The goal over the next seven years will be for the project to receive less money from NYSERDA and more money from industry members. We want to establish a consortium that is self-sustaining. By bringing in industry members we will have money to do our own-sponsored research, technology transfer, outreach, and market research, all these types of things and GLASE will be self-financing.

“My role as executive director is to ensure that the team moves in this direction. By bringing in industry members, offering them the project and making sure that we provide them with access to the technology that is developed by Cornell and RPI.”

 

Complementary research

Mattos said the research that will be done at Cornell and RPI is complementary and will not overlap.

“RPI will be doing more engineering-related research, such as looking at light fixtures and components including the drivers and controllers,” he said. “They are also looking at photobiology—how plants respond to different spectra as they grow and produce different nutritional compounds and changes in plant metabolism and morphology. The RPI research work is more engineering-related.

“The research at Cornell is going to be more applied in the greenhouse, such as interactions of carbon dioxide enrichment and lighting control studies. Cornell will implement some of the systems that have already been developed at Cornell. Cornell will also be looking at different systems and different crops. Initially the studies will be done with tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries and then will be extended as necessary.”

 

The research conducted at Cornell University will be more applied in the greenhouse, including carbon dioxide enrichment and lighting control studies.
Photo by Chris Kitchen, Cornel Univ. Marketing

Mattos said the research will be expanded to commercial size greenhouses in New York, which will be 6,000 square feet for a small scale greenhouse and 20,000 square feet for a large scale greenhouse.

“RPI will develop new systems and Cornell will implement the greenhouse tests and then move forward to a final demonstration,” he said.

Mattos said the researchers will also be working in partnership with A.J. Both at Rutgers University, who will be doing some of the energy efficacy and radiometric studies of the light fixtures.

“One of the milestones Cornell research associate Kale Harbick will be working on is modeling,” Mattos said. “This will involve trying to calculate in advance how much energy in a greenhouse is consumed and what happens if some of the variables are changed. The research will look at how these changes affect the general energy consumption of the greenhouse.”

 

Seeking industry support

Mattos said when GLASE was developed over 30 industry companies provided letters of support indicating they wanted to become part of the consortium as industry members. Since the consortium was started, many other companies have expressed their interest in becoming part of the consortium.

“Even though these companies signed letters of support that doesn’t mean they will all become consortium members,” he said. “Cornell and RPI are both already working in partnership with some companies to develop the core research. There is nothing official as industry members yet. We are looking to bring in other industry members and really make them a part of this consortium. We want to reach a broad range of industry members so this support could be both financial or it could be providing equipment to conduct the research. But the primary goal is to bring in financial support.”

Mattos said there will be a series of benefits that come with industry membership.

“They would pay for a membership and then they would get a series of benefits. We are now working with a marketing media company to promote the consortium and the opportunity for membership.

“We want to bring in large manufacturing companies, but we also want to address the other end of the spectrum and work with small growers. The growers will benefit the most from this research.”

 

Academic collaborators, information hub

Mattos said it is the intension of the consortium to expand with researchers from outside New York.

“We intend to establish future academic collaborations to develop new research projects partially funded by GLASE through industry membership funds and new research grants,” he said.

Another goal of GLASE is to create a hub for greenhouse lighting and systems engineering which includes the centralization of information.

“We will create a central database to indicate the academic research currently on-going in the U.S. (what, where and who) to facilitate the interaction between the industry and academia,” he said.

 

Impact on greenhouse, plant systems

The crops that are to be studied initially by Cornell and RPI researchers are tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries.

“These are commercially relevant crops,” Mattos said “I went to Ithaca and met some of the members of Neil’s team, including graduate students Jonathan Allred and Erica Hernandez and research technician Matthew Moghaddam, who have been working with tomatoes and strawberries. Lettuce is also one of the most commonly produced greenhouse crops.

“Part of the milestones that Tessa will be working on will be done in environmentally controlled growth chambers and growth rooms. Tessa does not have a greenhouse. Most of the research that she will be doing is related to photobiology. Everything that she will be doing has application to warehouse production even though she is not doing the research in a warehouse. This research will look at nutritional compounds and pigment production. The research in the growth chambers will be compared with greenhouse studies.”

The research conducted at RPI will be done in growth chambers and growth rooms, which should have application to commercial warehouse production.
Photo courtesy of GLASE

Although the RPI research is not targeted for commercial indoor farms, Mattos said the results could be used to support that type of production.

“The proposal is to reduce greenhouse crop production energy consumption by 70 percent in seven years,” he said. “The economic factor and the majority of the research will be looking at greenhouse systems and how to integrate them. Economically we are focused on greenhouses. But we will be doing studies in growth chambers that may have application to support indoor farm production.

“Tessa will be looking especially at biological efficacy. Everybody talks about the efficacy of the light fixtures themselves. A lot of people are looking at that. Getting less attention is the biological efficacy, which is if there is a different spectrum, the same amount of photons or micromoles, can have a different impact on plants. Not only the morphology, but also the pigments, the chemical pathways. This is the biological efficacy.”

 


For more: Erico Mattos, Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium; (302) 290-1560; erico.bioenergy@hotmail.com; https://glase.cals.cornell.edu.

 

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail.com.

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Short course to focus on controlled environment agriculture

University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture
Center is hosting the 14th annual short course focused on greenhouse production
and design.

The 14th annual Greenhouse Crop Production & Engineering Design Short Course,
March 22–27, 2015, will be held at the Westward Look Resort in Tucson, Ariz.
Hosted by the University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center
(CEAC), the short course will include three full days of presentations on many
aspects of controlled environment agriculture (CEA). There will also be one day
of hands-on workshops at the CEAC campus.

University
of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture
Center will host the 14th annual Greenhouse
Crop Production
& Engineering Design Short Course, March 22–27, 2015.

The Short Course will feature 23 seminars
covering topics related to plant production, including crop selection, hydroponics,
aquaponics, lighting, fertilization, integrated pest management and food safety.
There will also be presentations related to growing structure design, environmental
control, high tunnels and urban agriculture. The nine hands-on workshops will
address several topics including tomato, lettuce and herb production,
fertigation, sensors and controls and the first experience with growing in a
greenhouse.

A
day of hands-on workshops during the Greenhouse Crop
Production &
Engineering Design Short Course will cover a
 variety of topics including growing
lettuce and herbs in
floating systems.
An exhibitor room will enable conference attendees to meet
with industry professionals to discuss their current operations or any potential
projects they may be considering. The short course also provides an opportunity
for networking and information exchange between growers, engineers, scientists,
researchers, and other industry professionals.

Webcast option
Those unable to travel to Tucson to attend the Short Course
have the option of viewing the presentations streaming live or after the event
has concluded. For those who choose the live Webcast attendance option, they
will have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters in real time. The
presentations will also be available for later viewing in a password protected
internet database.
For more: Aaron
Tevik, University of Arizona, CEA Building, Tucson, Ariz.; atevik@cals.arizoan.edu;
http://ag.arizona.edu/ceac.

Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com

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Growers, investors discuss horticultural opportunities

Attendees at the first “Realities of Growing Plants
Indoors” Short Course learned what it takes culturally to produce controlled
environment crops as well as how to finance and market their businesses.

By David Kuack
Based on the phone calls Gene Giacomelli receives at the
University of Arizona he said growers and would-be growers aren’t talking
enough to the people who are interested in investing in the industry.
Giacomelli, who is director of the university’s Controlled Environment
Agriculture Center and a professor in Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering,
saw an opportunity to bring the two groups together at the first “Realities of Growing Plants Indoors” Short Course,
which was held in Tucson in July.
“I receive phone calls regularly from investors wanting
to know about the possibilities of putting their money into production in
controlled environment agriculture,” Giacomelli said. “They feel they don’t
know enough about the industry. I was trying to get them together with growers
so that they could have some discussion. They had the opportunity to share
their vocabulary, their activities and the things that need to be done if they
want to invest in a successful business.
“This also applies to the growers, who are looking for potential
investors. Growers need to know how to make presentations and be able to
provide the information investors need in order to satisfy their stakeholders
if they are going to lend money or invest in a business.”
For the first 1½ days of the Short Course participants
were provided with the basics applied “how-to-grow” controlled environment
agriculture.






Attendees at the first “Realities of Growing Plants Indoors”
Short Course had the opportunity to tour a small, commercial-
sized tomato greenhouse, a supplemental lighting research
facility and a small grow box for greens.
Photos courtesy of University of Arizona

“The grower-focused presentations had an emphasis on
indoor production, which included greenhouses and also closed environments such
as vertical farming,” Giacomelli said. “Topics included irrigation, climate
control and lighting. We gave them some applied horticultural information that
they should at least be aware of and then learn more about if they want to get
into this business and grow indoors.”

Getting down to
business

During the last half of the second day the Short Course
transitioned to the business side.

“A couple of business people spoke about their
entrepreneurial horticultural activities,” Giacomelli said. “This presentation
transitioned the discussion to the third day where we conducted an investor and
business forum.”
Prior to the start of the business forum attendees took a
2-hour tour of the university’s production and research facilities including a small,
commercial-sized tomato greenhouse, a supplemental lighting research facility
and a small grow box for greens from Japan.
“The growers and investors had an opportunity to see what
growing was like in a traditional greenhouse using the sun as the light source
as well as growing inside using only electrical lamps,” Giacomelli said.
The business forum included a panel of five participants
including a produce distributor, two entrepreneurs who started their own indoor
food production companies, a regional buyer for a national grocery store chain
and a philanthropist investor.
Members of a business forum panel who spoke to Short Course
attendees included a produce distributor, two entrepreneurs who
started their own indoor food production companies, a regional
buyer for a national grocery store chain and a philanthropist investor.

“By bringing the two groups together we tried to give
those growers and would-be-growers who are considering starting a horticultural
business a chance to hear from those people who could provide them with a
reality check,” Giacomelli said.

For more: Gene
Giacomelli, University of Arizona, Ag & Biosystems Engineering Department,
Controlled Environment Agriculture Center; (520) 626-9566;
giacomel@ag.arizona.edu; http://ag.arizona.edu/ceac.

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com

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Specialty Greens produces better crops with grow lights

Specialty Greens in Lafayette, Calif., is hydroponically
producing gourmet lettuces, herbs, chard, spinach, kale and microgreens. Owner Patty
Phaneuf has been working with Hort Americas to study the effects supplemental
production lighting can have on her lettuce and herb crops. She is using Philips
Green Power LED Production Modules Deep Red/Blue 120cm and T-5 fluorescent
lamps. T-5s produce light that is high in the blue light spectrum (440
nanometers).

Phaneuf said the lettuce grown under the LEDs and
fluorescent lights had accelerated growth and intensified leaf color. Using the
lights enabled her to produce the lettuce within a 30-day crop cycle from seed
to harvest.

Phaneuf was so pleased with the lettuce production
results that she is planning to expand the lighting trials. She is working with
Hort Americas to increase the amount of blue light given off by the LED
Production Modules so that she can eliminate having to use the fluorescent
lights.
 

 

For more:
Specialty Greens, www.specialtygreens.com.

Experiment information provided by Patty Phaneuf at
Specialty Greens. Posted by Maria Luitjohan at Hort Americas,
www.hortamericas.com.

Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com

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Updated: LED Grow Lights used in Leafy Green Trials

Specialty Greens
experiment is going well. In the first eight-ten days, Specialty Greens saw
little difference between the LED lights and the T-5 lights, but as we
approached the two week mark Specialty Greens began to see significant differences,
as seen in the photos. There does not seem to be an appreciable difference
between the two LED light set up and the three light set up. The main
difference I am noticing is that there is a bit less color in the leaves of
lettuce produced under the LED lights. There is however, amazing growth and in
looking at the photos of the Mizuna leaves, it’s clear that as a commercial
grower, Specialty Greens could get two, possibly three harvests out in 30 days.
Overall, everything is growing well and if were it not for this experiment, Specialty Greens
would have pulled some of the crops a week ago (e.g., kale, mizuna, some
lettuces).
Chard under Two LEDs
Chard under Three LEDs
 
 
Specialty Greens also decided to compare Hort
Americas LEDs to T-5 lights. In these photos Specialty Greens tried to show the
visible difference between the plants grown under the LED lights (in each photo
they are the larger plants) vs growing under T-5 lights and the incredible
difference between the small (background) and large (foreground) Mizuna leaves
 
Mizuna grown under LEDs on Left, T-5’s on right
 
Mizuna grown under LEDs on Left, T-5’s on right

Also showing the difference in Chard growing under LED
lights (left) vs T-5 lights. (right)

Experiment information provided by Patty Phaneuf from Specialty Greens, and Posted by Maria Luitjohan from Hort Americas.
Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com

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LED Grow Lights used in Leafy Green Trials

Philips GreenPower Production Module LED Experiment with
Specialty Greens in Lafayette, CA

Lights: Philips GreenPower Production Modules Deep
Red/Blue 120cm

Objectives: 1.) Can a variety of greens (gourmet
lettuces, high nutrient greens and herbs) be grown under production LED lights
well enough and quickly enough to be commercially viable. The target is a 30
day cycle from seed to harvest.

2.) Would two lights per hydroponic unit (ez clone
cloner) achieve this goal or are three necessary?

Seeded: 9/15/13

Experiment under lights began: 9/26/13
Initial recommendation to hang lights 16-18” above plants produced
leggy and weak seedlings.  Lights
remounted above plants 7-8” Philips GreenPower Production Modules are being run
14 hours/day.  Ambient room temperature
ranges from 70 degrees during the night to 85 degrees during the day. The
nutrient used is DynaGrow at a dilution of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon so about 5-6
teaspoons per cloner. ProTect, an auxiliary nutrient, was used at the same
dilution. An ArtDne recycling timer is being used 24 hours per day at a rate of
1 minute on for every 5 minutes off. There will be one nutrient change during
the experiment after approximately two weeks to refresh the set up and new
nutrient will be applied at the dilution described above.
Specialty Greens is providing growers interested in hydroponics all the they need to grow hydroponically in a 2 ft sq. space!
To
find out more about Specialty Greens Check them out here or like them on Facebook
Here are some photos taken of the Experiment on 9/26/13

Experiment information provided by Patty Phaneuf from Specialty Greens, and Posted by Maria Luitjohan from Hort Americas.
Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com

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Algae Production Using LEDs at the University of Kentucky

Algae production could help reduce greenhouse gases

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are using a greenhouse and LED lights to study the feasibility of growing algae with flue gas from coal-burning power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By David Kuack

Algae are considered a nuisance by commercial greenhouse growers. The warm, moist conditions that occur in greenhouses provide the ideal environment for algae growth.
Algae can be found anywhere these conditions exist, including floors, walkways, under and on benches, on greenhouse glazings and walls, in irrigation pipes and emitters and misting lines, on the surface of evaporative cooling pads and on the surface of growing media in containers and ground beds. Algae can also be a food source for fungus gnats and shore flies. But algae also hold great potential in the production of value-added products.
Even though algae are a problem for growers, these simple green plants hold great potential in the production of biofuels, fertilizers, cosmetics, fish and animal feed and other value-added products. Members of the algae program at the University of Kentucky in Lexington are looking at the potential of algae production to help lower the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, from the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal.
Andy Placido, an engineer associate with the university’s Center for Applied Energy Research, said the restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions will only increase as environmental issues gain in importance among the public and government and regulatory officials.
Kentucky’s Department of Energy Development and Independence is always looking for ways to make coal cleaner because it is a big part of the state’s economy,” said Placido. “State officials know that there is eventually going to be some type of restrictions or tax on greenhouse gas emissions. Coal produces more carbon dioxide per energy unit than natural gas and other fuels. So officials are trying to evaluate the technology that is available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Algae Production with LEDs
This culture closet is equipped with LED lights and temperature
control. It is used to grow algae from a few milliliters up to
15-20 liters. The algae is then moved into a greenhouse for further
production under  higher light levels and warmer temperatures.

An ample source of carbon dioxide
While most coal-burning power plants in Kentucky have been equipped with scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, Placido said little has been done to restrict the amount of carbon dioxide that is generated in the flue gas.
“We are going to be using post-scrubbed flue gas, which is going to contain about 12 percent carbon dioxide and not a whole lot more,” he said. “There is a minimal amount of sulfur and nitrogen. That is the reason we are looking at using the carbon dioxide because there aren’t any mature technologies for the capture of this gas. Right now, we are basically following the same route that occurred during the 1980s when these power plants were looking for the technology to capture the sulfur and nitrogen.”
If the research is successful in capturing and using the carbon dioxide, there is the potential to use some of the sulfur and nitrogen currently being removed from the flue gas by the scrubbers.
“We know that algae use sulfur and nitrogen in addition to carbon dioxide,” he said. “Algae might eventually allow for the scrubbers to be eliminated altogether.”

LED lights and a greenhouse
Placido said the algae culturing system starts in the laboratory where the algae are allowed to multiply.
“We work with the university’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering which maintains the algae strains in beakers,” he said. “The algae are purchased in small vials and then cultured up to a few hundred milliliters.”
Placido said this is when he and the other researchers start to work with the algae in an in-house designed culture closet equipped with Philips LED lights.
“We are growing algae indoors with temperature control,” he said. “We are starting to bubble in 5 percent carbon dioxide to allow the algae to acclimate to a higher percentage of carbon dioxide along with the LED lighting as we prepare to move the algae into the sunlight. When there is enough algae that have acclimated (0.05-0.1 gram of algae per liter of water), they will be taken from the culture closet to the greenhouse. In the greenhouse, it will still be a temperature-controlled environment. We’ll allow the algae to grow in the greenhouse and once they become accustomed to the higher light levels and change in temperature, we will take the algae out to the power plant where it will be exposed to outdoor conditions along with the flue gas. That is our algae process chain.”

Maximizing algae growth
LED lights are being used 24 hours a day in the culture room to provide constant light. Placido said they are also looking at using the LEDs outside as a supplement at night and possibly during winter at the power plant so the algae continue to grow.
“During the night algae start to respire during which they release carbon dioxide and take in oxygen,” he said. “This is the reverse process of what happens during the day. By using the LEDs we can keep the algae growing for 24 hours or at least reduce the respiration process. Because the LEDs are very efficient, we expect more algae will be produced than the energy needed to operate the lights.”
Placido said algae split when they grow so production is judged on doubling time. Under optimum light and temperatures in the lab a doubling time of 12-24 hours is achievable.
“With the outdoor conditions we will have with the flue gas, we are hoping to have a doubling time of two to three days,” he said. “We would like to increase the growth rate, but that is going to take some nutrient work along with optimizing the light and temperature levels. Outside we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”
Placido said algae growth is much better with the LEDs in a controlled environment than outside under natural conditions. He said the difference in growth comparing inside and outdoor conditions has not been quantified.
“We have gotten much greater algae growth rates inside in the culture closet equipped with LEDs than outside or in the greenhouse even under the best days in regards to light and temperature,” he said.



Algae Production in Photo Reactors
Algae is produced in photo-reactors that can be placed inside or outside  of a  greenhouse.
 The ultimate goal is to build a large reactor adjacent to a coal-burning  power plant
that  will use the carbon dioxide given off in the plant’s flue gas.

Real world use
Placido said when the system is set up at the power plant, more flue gas will be produced than can be used to grow the algae. The flue gas will be pulled into the photo-reactor, which is a series of glass tubes on a steel frame, as carbon dioxide gas is needed.
“Once the system is saturated with carbon dioxide, the algae will be allowed to grow and then will be harvested. More carbon dioxide will be added as it is needed,” he said. “We know that our reactor isn’t nearly big enough to capture all of the carbon dioxide. The reactor we are using only holds about 2,000 gallons of water. That’s a good size, but nowhere near the size we would need to capture all of the carbon dioxide. We have estimated to capture all of the carbon dioxide from this one power plant would require a reactor that would cover 100 acres and take millions of gallons of water.
Placido said the power plant can provide an unlimited amount of steam to keep the water in the reactor tubes from freezing during the winter.
“During the winter with the sun’s heat during day the water temperature would stay above freezing,” he said. “With the steam from the power plant to heat the water along with keeping the water circulating continuously, that should be enough to keep the system from freezing. Then we would supplement the natural light with the LEDs if it was needed.”

Grower potential
Placido said there are some possibilities for commercial growers to produce algae and use algae in the future.
“That is our goal, to find out how we can improve the process for making fuel and how does that compare with other algae-derived products, such as fertilizers, animal feed, etc.,” he said. “Our end goal is to make biofuel. In the future the ideal situation would be for growers to produce their own energy source.”

For more: Andy Placido is Engineer Associate II, University of Kentucky, Center for Applied Energy Research, (859) 257-0223; andy.placido@uky.edu.
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com

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New Horticultural Video Series in Development

Hort Americas has been extremely busy leading up to the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend.  And lets just say its the good busy, the fun busy!

Last night we shot our first video which will ultimately become a series of educational and information videos geared towards the commercial horticulture and hydroponic industry.  The first video will focus in on the Philips GreenPower LED Production Module and its possible application in the production of ornamental and hydroponic crops.

The New Videos will focus on LED Grow Lights and will star Ms. Abigail Herring!

Hort Americas is also and excited and proud to be working with many of the industry’s top editors.  We are dedicated and focused on helping to build the industry, which makes us thankful (since it is Thanksgiving) for the work of individuals like Annie White of Ball Publishing.  See a sample of Annie’s work here.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com

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LED Horticultural Grow Lights Make Propagation Easier and Faster

Rooting cuttings in separate propagation room cuts a week off of production schedule
by David Kuack and Jean-Marc Versolato
Minnesota in the winter
is not the ideal place to try to propagate woody ornamental cuttings. Cold
temperatures and low light conditions make rooting cuttings a real challenge. So
when Jean-Marc Versolato at Bailey Nurseries in St.
Paul, began reading about how European growers were
using LED lights to root cuttings it piqued his interest.
Versolato,
who is the company’s IPM manager for the greenhouses, worked with Philips Horticultural
Lighting and Hort Americas to design a separate propagation room not in the
greenhouses to trial the LED lights.
“I
felt that the LED lights were going to be the next improvement in growing,”
Versolato said. “We started in February 2011 and ran a variety of crops under
the lights. We used three Cannon carts tied together side-by-side to form one
large shelf that can hold up to 15 trays. The trial was conducted in a corner
of our germination room.”
Versolato
said the germination room was the perfect location for the trial. Located
inside a production building, the room provides a constant 70°F and is equipped
with fogging nozzles in the ceiling. The trial propagation area was partitioned
with black plastic to avoid light contamination from the room’s fluorescent
lights.
The
cuttings only received red and blue light from Philips GreenPower LED production modules. The 5-foot modules, which matched the size of the carts, were
located about 16 inches away from the cuttings.
Cuttings
were taken from a variety of plants in the greenhouses, including Spirea, Celastrus,
Physocarpus and Hydrangea. The cuttings were sprayed with indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) to help initiate rooting. The
cuttings were stuck in 38-cell plastic trays (standard 11- x 21-inch)
containing Preforma rooting plugs. The cart shelves held five flats of each
genus for a total of 15 flats.
The
fogging nozzles filled the entire room with fog. There cuttings received no direct
water misting or spraying.
“By
using the fog we eliminated droplets from forming on the foliage, which greatly
reduced the chance for Botrytis and loss of cuttings,” Versolato said. “Gravity
caused the fog to descend on the cuttings and the fog kept the cuttings turgid.
“The
LED lights generate heat, but nothing like other lights available for growing.
For this reason the Preforma plugs remained moist and we didn’t need to apply
any additional water.”
The
cuttings rooted in three to four weeks. Versolato said in the greenhouses the
cuttings root in four to five weeks and occasionally take longer for some
species.
Crops on Cannon carts under fog and Philips LED Grow Lights
Trialing other
crops
After
the initial propagation trial proved successful, Versolato was looking to try
additional crops. During the summer the company purchased tissue-cultured lilac
micro-cuttings.
“We
rooted three flats of micro-cuttings under the LED lights in three weeks,” Versolato
said. “They required very little grower care whatsoever. The environment in the
propagation chamber was controlled by the LED lights and the fogging nozzles. Also,
no fungicide spray applications were made.”
Versolato
said winter cutting propagation in the greenhouse can be difficult to manage
because of low light levels, the temperature and the humidity. Based on the
successful results of the lilac trial, Versolato said the company plans to root
25 percent of its French lilacs (Syringa
vulagris
) cuttings in the propagation room.
“In
January and February we will begin to root the micro-cuttings lilacs in the
room,” he said. “We are probably going to root six to seven varieties, putting
a sample of each one of them under the LED lights to see how they perform.
We’re going to do six carts with three shelves each. Each shelf holds five
trays, for a total of 90 flats under the LED lights. This trial will be our
first multi-layer production attempt.”
Although
pleased with the rooting results under LED lights that he has gotten so far,
Versolato said he thinks there are other factors that are instrumental in the
cuttings rooting faster.
“The
cuttings are being rooted in the Preforma plugs instead of greenhouse growing
media,” he said. “The chamber also has very good temperature and humidity
control. All of these factors put together help to shave seven days off of the
rooting schedule.”
Expanding
propagation
Versolato
said the propagation room will be used for hard to root crops. The room can
hold 40-50 carts.
“We
are not going to be wasting space in the trial area for crops that are easy to
root in the greenhouses,” he said. “We are looking at a list of a dozen
varieties/species that we would root in the room knowing that they are
difficult to root in the greenhouses. Some of the plants that will be trialed
include Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ Tiger Eyes, Amelanchier and Betula.”
For
the lilac trial, 15 flats of cuttings were lit by five modules of LED lights.
“We
wanted to be sure that we had enough light for all of the flats,” Versolato
said. “For this coming year the lights are not going to be directly above the
plants or mounted on the carts. We want to be able to move the carts in and out
of the propagation room.”
The
lights will be mounted on a bracket shelving system and located about 16 inches
above and to the side of the cuttings. Versolato said this will make switching and
handling carts a lot faster and easier.
The right recipe
Versolato
said the red and blue LED lights come in different recipes depending on what a
grower wants the plants to do, whether it’s develop roots, hasten flower initiation
or speed up time to flower.
“The
recipe that we are using is generic and works with just about any plant we are
trying to propagate,” he said. “It would be too difficult to have a different
recipe for every genus and species that we are growing.”
Versolato
said Philips can provide growers with the information to tweak the light
wavelength recipe to increase or decrease the amount of red light or blue
light.
“For
Dutch growers, who may be producing acres of Anthurium or another mono crop, it
is easy for them to have a specific light recipe for that one crop,” he said. “But
in our situation where we have many different crops, it would take a lot to
come up with a different recipe for each one of them.”
Finished crop on Cannon carts (multilayer production)
under LED grow lights
Finishing plants
Versolato
is also planning to do another trial finishing plants in the greenhouse under
LED lights.
“Philips
has different types of LED lights,” he said. “In addition to the light modules
we used for propagation, Philips also has flowering light bulbs that can be
screwed into regular light fixtures. One helps to promote flowering.
Versolato
is planning to do a small trial with the flowering LED lights to see if they
help with flower bud initiation on impatiens during early season crop
production. He said the first impatiens crop is grown during the short dark
days of the year and the plants are very slow to develop buds.
Even
though the first crop is currently grown under high intensity discharge lights,
Versolato wants to see what impact the addition of LED lights will have on the plants.
“We
want to try some LED bulbs mixed in with the HID to see if they help to improve
bud count,” he said. “The crop would be put out in the greenhouses around Feb.
23. The light level in the greenhouses in Minnesota during February is very low. We’re
planning to trial about three benches with the LED lights.”
For more: Bailey
Nurseries Inc., www.baileynurseries.com. Hort Americas,
www.hortamericas.com. Philips
Horticultural Lighting, www.philips.com/horti
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; dkuack@gmail.com. Jean-Marc Versolato is IPM manager, Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, Minn.
Visit our corporate website at http://www.hortamericas.com
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