Thanks to the IESO for contributing to this post.
Are you aware that the Save on Energy program can help you to complete energy efficient upgrades in your greenhouse? You may have participated in this program in the past, but the current iteration can help you to retrofit items like ventilation fans and upgrade to LED lighting in the warehouse and the greenhouse.
The IESO has developed tools that can help you identify areas where an upgrade might be able to help you save energy. These include a checklist that walks you through the greenhouse, and some videos and other information on their web page.
The IESO recently released a report on greenhouse energy use in Ontario, and how efficiency measures can help to reduce demand on Ontario’s energy infrastructure. One of the suggestions coming out of the report was for greenhouses to adopt LED lighting. The incentives available through the Save on Energy program may help you to identify if this is right for your greenhouse.
Many research studies, in Ontario and elsewhere, have focused on understanding how LED lights affect plant growth and development. While these projects have given us lots of information, it’s hard to tell how certain crops and varieties will react to being produced under LED light and how greenhouse conditions might change these effects in your own greenhouse. These questions can be investigated on your own farm by running your own trials.
If you’re thinking of trialing LED lights in your own operation, here’s some key questions to think about before getting started.
Where should a trial take place? The trial should be somewhere that is representative of your greenhouse, and where staff can comfortably work to collect data. Don’t put it in the dark back corner of the greenhouse where plants never seem to grow right, just to get it out of the way. Remember that the goal is to see if it can fit into your production system, so make sure it is in an area you use!
You’ll want to make sure that you have room for a treatment (the LED lights you plan to trial) and a control (what you are doing now). Finding space can be tricky. Consider the options below. Having both the treatment and the control in the same range is okay (Setup #1), but it’s best to keep them separated by a few benches so you don’t run into any light overlap (Setup #2). The best option would be to use two similar areas or ranges that are separated (Setup #3), although depending on your greenhouse design this might not be an option.
Who will run the trial and collect data? Dedicated staff are the best people to get to look after a trial. Make sure they are interested in the project, and aren’t biased to the results coming out in a certain way. They should have attention to detail skills to take good measurements and notice anything that might be of interest. The ability to “stick with it” is important, since collecting data can be tedious and sometimes boring work!
What kind of measures should I take? The types of measures should be something you care about in production. So if you care about improving the rooting of cuttings, try measuring rooting levels (e.g. how long it takes for roots to emerge from cuttings, reach the edge of the pot, cover 50% of the media etc.). If you want to know if a certain light spectrum can help to cut down on the amount of PGRs you need to apply, try measuring number or volume of applications, hours spent grading a crop, or the size of the plant canopy.
Remember that taking measures doesn’t have to be all numbers. You can take photos each week of plants (or plant parts like blooms, leaves or roots) grown under different treatments and compare them visually or with a computer program (if you’ve got savvy staff). Just make sure to sample many different plants and not take all of your results from only a few pots.
Some common measures you might want to think about taking for lighting trials are: rooting time, height, time to flower, number of nodes, internode length, canopy shape or size and dry weight. These measures can be taken during a specific part of a production cycle (e.g. propagation) or over the whole crop cycle, which will require more effort.
Ready to start a trial after reading all of this? Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You can always reach out to us to run through design and setup with you. There are also some helpful On-Farm Trial resources on the blog, check them out!