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The Advantages of Using LED Lighting in Forest Seedling Greenhouses

Cultivating delicate sequoia seedling indoors protects them from the elements.
Cultivating delicate sequoia seedling indoors protects them from the elements.

Advances in LED grow light technology provide greenhouse tree growers with a cost-efficient light source to produce healthier and more attractive trees when compared to other forms of illumination.

Both the US Forestry Service and private tree nurseries face the same challenge when cultivating young tree seedlings in greenhouses – during the winter months, the natural light in the greenhouses is not sufficient to promote growth. When the seedlings are light-starved, they stop growing, they form terminal buds too early, and they fail to reach the height needed for transplanting outdoors. Forestry experts experimented with using HPS lighting and found this light source did not provide the light spectrum the trees need for efficient photosynthesis. In addition, HPS lights use a tremendous amount of energy, making their use too costly. A researcher employed by the US Forestry Service in Idaho decided to see if LED lighting provided the light spectrum needed by the seedlings without using an excessive amount of energy.

The Benefits Using Red and Blue LED Grow Lights for Tree Seedling Greenhouse Cultivation

A team of scientists from the Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research at the University of Idaho and the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station designed an experiment to compare the growth, biomass, and chlorophyll production in seedlings grown using LED lighting with those cultivated using HPS lighting. They ensured both experimental groups had the same environmental conditions. The researchers eliminated any variations caused by natural light by installing black out curtains.  The LED lights had a mix of 15 percent blue diodes and 85 percent red diodes. In addition, they used two different tree species – Douglas Fir and Engleman Spruce – to test whether any benefits were not limited to just one species.

After a 17-week growth period, the research team measured the growth, shoot dry mass, chlorophyll levels, and the power consumption of each lighting source. They found that seedlings grown using LED lights were significantly larger, weighed more, and produced 30 percent more chlorophyll than young trees exposed to HPS lights. In addition, LED lights provided a 70 percent energy savings when compared to the power usage of the HPS lighting system.

a4-2High-quality LED grow lights provide the light spectrum young trees need for optimal growth.  

Grow Your Profits: Cultivate Tree Seedlings for Reforestation Projects and Private Property Owners

According to the United Nations, the world loses more than 36 million of natural forests each year. As government officials realize the negative effects of deforestation, such as erosion and loss of natural carbon sinks, reforestation projects are gaining support. By using LED grow lights, indoor growers can cultivate robust tree seedlings for government reforestation projects. In addition, property developers buy native trees to replace those lost during the construction of commercial and residential developments. Homeowners often seek tree seedlings to plant to add value to their property. If you want to expand your grow operations, cultivating tree seedlings offer a profitable market opportunity.

Do you want to learn more about selecting the best LED grow lights for cultivating different types of tree seedlings? Contact our LED grow light specialists for expert recommendations and advice.


Apostol Kent G.; Dumroese, R. Kasten; Pinto, Jeremiah R.; Davis, Anthony S. 2015. Light-emitting diode lighting for forest nursery seedling production. International Plant Propagators’ Society, Combined Proceedings (2014). 64: 335-339.

NA (nd). Reforestation. Tree Plantation. Accessed June 2016.


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