Improve the Marketability of Hydroponically Grown Vegetables by Using LED Lights
As health-conscious consumers demand nutrient dense vegetables with exceptional flavor and appearance, hydroponic growers can optimize the growth, nutrient content, and taste of their crops by using red, blue, and white LED lights.
As American consumers become more health conscious and concerned about the quality of the produce they eat, the demand for fresh, locally-grown, organic vegetables is on the rise. For example, a recent consumer survey found 29 percent of large grocery store customers want their grocer to stock locally grown produce. Market analysts report that between 2011 and 2016, the US hydroponic farming industry generated $848 million in revenue. In addition, the farm-to-consumer market grew by 17 percent between 2002 and 2007, followed by 5 percent expansion during the subsequent five-year period. Industry experts forecast the market for hydroponically-produced organic vegetables will grow 5.6 percent annually through 2021. If you are a hydroponic vegetable grower, what can you do to secure a strong position in this market?
Enhance the Flavor and Nutritional Value of Vegetables Using LED Lighting
Indoor hydroponic growers have a unique competitive advantage since they control the environment conditions in which they cultivate their vegetable crops. Consumers do not have to wait for their favorite veggies to be in season since indoor growers are not affected by the weather variations. In addition, indoor hydroponic growers can create an environment to optimize the flavor, appearance, nutritional value, and crispness of their crops by using LED grow lights.
Research Shows Red, Blue, and White LED Lights Optimize Lettuce Marketability and Yields
Recent research published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science investigated the effects of different LED grow light recipes on shape, color and size of lettuce leafs. They found that plants grown with a polychromatic mix of red and blue LED lights had larger leaves than those produced using monochromatic LED grow lights. This study confirmed earlier research comparing different LED grow light mixes using fluorescent lighting as a control.
For maximum crop yields and high-quality produce, use LED lights optimized for vegetable production, such as the DS XML 650.
A groundbreaking 2013 research report published in Scientia Horticulturae described the results of a well-designed experiment comparing the effects of different LED light mixes on the nutritional content, sweetness, shape and color of LED plants. According to the study’s authors, their experiment is the first to examine the effects of LED lights on the marketability characteristics of vegetables.
The results of the study are as follows:
- Plants grown using only red and blue LED lights had the lowest shoot and root wet and dry weights individually compared to plants grown using red blue and white LED lights.
- Lettuce plants grown using red, blue, and LED grow lights had the greatest shoot wet and dry weight compared with plants cultivated with red and blue LED lights and those exposed to fluorescent lights.
- The lettuce produced using polychromatic red, blue, and white LED had the highest level of soluble sugars and other nutrients, lowest nitrate levels, as well as the best shape, crispness, and color.
While the LED light mix may vary for other types of vegetables, growers using full spectrum LED grow lights tend to produce the most attractive, flavorful, and nutritious vegetables. Since these characteristics are the benchmarks used by consumers to evaluate quality, hydroponic farmers who grow vegetables that meet or exceed consumer expectations will find their produce is the preferred choice of retail and wholesale customers.
If you have questions about choosing the best LED grow lights for your vegetable crops, contact our LED grow light experts today!
Lin, K-H., Huang, M-Y., Huang, W-D., Hsu, M-H., Yang, Z-W., Yang, C-M, (2013). The effects of red, blue, and white light-emitting diodes on the growth, development, and edible quality of hydroponically grown lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. capitata). Scientia Horticulturae, 150: 86-91.
Wang, J., Lu, W., Tong, Y., & Yang, Q. (2016). Leaf morphology, photosynthetic performance, chlorophyll fluorescence, stomatal development of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) exposed to different ratios of red light to blue light. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 250.