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LighTimes: Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer to Fine Tune Greenhouse Crops with LED Lighting

23 Oct 2013

October 22, 2013…Dr. Tessa Pocock, a newly hired senior research scientist at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will collaborate with Gotham Greens, a New York City based agribusiness with rooftop greenhouses in Brooklyn. The team will research, evaluate, and model LED and high intensity discharge (HID) greenhouse lighting systems to reduce energy and its associated atmospheric pollution, and improve plant throughput and appearance for higher margins. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is funding the study with $500,000 through a research and development program targeting improvements in energy efficiency and crop production for controlled environment agriculture, such as greenhouses. This research will identify optimal lighting to increase leafy vegetable production using energy efficient LEDs compared with existing HID fixtures. Dr Pocock’s research focuses on plant photosynthesis, and plant development and regulation by light for traditional greenhouse crops and the emerging field of medicinal plants.

Prior to joining the LRC, Dr. Pocock served as director of research at Heliospectra, in Sweden, where she designed LED regimes to reduce energy consumption, produce healthier plants, and improve the quality of greenhouse crops. For the last four years, Dr. Pocock has been developing a biofeedback system in which the physiology of the plant regulates the spectrum and intensity of LED arrays, in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology, under a prestigious grant from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra).

Each wavelength of light reportedly has a different effect on plant physiology. And each species of plant has an individual response to different wavelengths as well. A specific wavelength and intensity of light might, for instance, increase the level of antioxidants in salad greens like red leaf lettuce, while a different wavelength and intensity could theoretically change the height of poinsettias, or perhaps, increase active compounds in medicinal plants.

“Thanks to recent advances in LED technologies, it is now possible to better elucidate the effects and functions of different portions of the spectrum to manipulate plants with unprecedented control and accuracy,” said Dr. Pocock. “The fine-tuning of light spectra and controlled regulation of plant attributes is adding new sophistication to plant production.”