Developing LED Lighting Technologies and Practices

for Sustainable Specialty-Crop Production


In 2004, approximately 2.9% of farmland in the United States was used for high value specialty crops yet they accounted for 39.5% of total farmland revenue. In many areas of the United States, particularly in temperate regions, growers produce high-value fruits, vegetables and ornamentals in protected environments such as greenhouses and high tunnels. In a range of climates, growers often rely on horticultural high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting for supplemental lighting required at many stages of the growing process.

Much of the energy used to power HID lighting is unfortunately wasted in light that plants do not require to grow and in heat generated by the bulb. In addition, there are negative environmental impacts created by HID lighting and compact florescent lighting found in many consumer applications.

Light emitting diode (LED) technologies are energy-efficient, long-lasting, and flexible in use. LEDs provide potential solutions to many of these problems. However, for this application and the light frequencies required for plant growth, the initial expense and lack of extensive field trials have lead to only small specialized pockets of adoption. Our project, "Developing LED Lighting Technology and Practices for Sustainable Specialty-Crop Production," provides specialty-crop research that improves production efficiency while developing relevant technologies, thereby increasing the competitiveness of the specialty-crop industry in the United States.

Our overall goal is to enable specialty-crop growers working in protected environments to successfully transition from traditional horticultural lighting sources to LED technologies. We will do this by working with industry to test and refine implementation strategies that will significantly decrease energy-related costs, maintain or increase production quality, decrease negative environmental impacts, thereby supporting local agriculture. By developing a strong best-practice process for LED implementation, while performing a rigorous economic and marketing analysis, our research will encourage the economic sustainability and growth of specialty crops in the United States.

This research is partially funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Project leaders include faculty and scientists from the following universities and companies:


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