Skip to main content

LED Lighting Improves Sustainability for Specialty-Crop Producers

Posted by Megan O’Reilly, National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Energy Research and Science
Feb 21, 2017
Banks of light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate plants in greenhouses.  Purdue University researchers discovered that LEDs can provide a more beneficial light spectrum to greenhouse plants than conventional lighting while using 75 percent less electricity. Courtesy of Celina Gomez.
Banks of light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate plants in greenhouses. Purdue University researchers discovered that LEDs can provide a more beneficial light spectrum to greenhouse plants than conventional lighting while using 75 percent less electricity. Courtesy of Celina Gomez.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

For about 2,000 years – since Roman emperor Tiberius demanded fresh cucumbers for lunch year ‘round – farmers have been looking for better ways to extend the growing season.  Now, a team of researchers led by Purdue University has found a way to grow more produce and save money doing it.

Greenhouses and other structures protect crops from harsh environmental conditions.  Over the last 50 years or so, some growers have added artificial lighting to compensate for shorter winter days or when conditions are cloudy.  However, the problem with most lighting systems is that they are relatively costly to install and do not provide the light spectrum that is most efficient for photosynthesis in plants.

The Purdue-led team of academic and industry scientists from Wisconsin, Michigan, and New Jersey is using grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to investigate the use of light emitting diodes (LED) to address this problem.  The researchers have designed LEDs that produce the exact light quality plants need to thrive while using only a fraction of the electricity used by high-pressure sodium lamps—the current industry standard.  In experiments in West Lafayette, IN, the team’s LED systems used 75 percent less electricity to produce the same product yield.  There are currently about 4,200 acres of greenhouses in the United States that use supplemental lighting.  If LED systems were installed in each of these greenhouses, energy use could be reduced by 3.5 billion kilowatt hours.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a reduction of that much energy would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by almost 3 million tons per year.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education, and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues that impact people’s daily lives and the nation’s future.  More information is available at www.nifa.usda.gov.

Category/Topic: Energy Research and Science

Write a Response

CAPTCHA This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

R.kumarasamy
Sep 30, 2013

very interesting

kumarasamy
india.

Dusty Kennemore
Oct 18, 2013

Hoop Houses may be interested in LED lights. I wonder if LED lights might be applicable to chicken/poultry houses. Probably Barns might find a use for LED lighting for larger animals (Cows/horses/etc).

Jackie
Dec 30, 2013

LED Grow light makes it possible to maintain small garden inside house which gives feeling of touch with nature.

MistyEyzz
Jan 02, 2014

Reduce your carbon footprint even more by using SOLAR panels for these LEDs

Saeid Mobini
Jun 17, 2016

May I know the amount of acreage of greenhouses using supplemental lighting in US and Europe?
Would be appreciate if you give me a reference.