Research at Light Speed

Illumitex was a proud sponsor of the 2016 Symposium on Light in Horticulture, held at Michigan State University.

Some might say that horticulture lighting research is growing fast; maybe even the speed of light!?  Puns aside, this field is rapidly growing  and critically needed as populations increase, the cost of electricity and water increase, and the amount of available farmland decreases.  A few weeks ago over 250 researchers and lighting professionals convened at the 8th International Symposium on Light in Horticulture hosted by Dr. Erik Runkle and Dr. Roberto Lopez at Michigan State University.  It might not have been c = 186,000 miles/second (speed of light) but it was definitely a whirlwind of an event.

Sunday night was check-in and welcome reception.  It was exciting to be among so many well-known horticulture lighting researchers.

On Monday the program began with lectures from Bruce Bugbee, Cary Mitchell, and Theoharis Ouzounis – all famous professors in light quality and optimization research.  Dr. Bugbee showed that in several species of plants, the net assimilation rate didn’t change for certain spectrum shifts because the ratio of plant growth/leaf area stayed the same.  Dr. Mitchell talked about supplemental lighting spectrums and pointed out during the panel that some wavelengths work at odds with each other – reversing their effects.  Dr. Ouzounis discussed the complexities of understanding the responses of 40 different tomato genotypes to different LED wavelengths.

The afternoon sessions were focused on UV light in horticulture and moderated by Chieri Kubota, a professor from the University of Arizona CEAC (Center for Environmental Agriculture Center).  We saw photos of seedlings being exposed to UV for outdoor transplantation by Dr. Wargent, UV dosage effects by Dr. Bridgen, and the accumulation of anthocyanin from UV exposure by Dr. Goto.

On Tuesday Dr. Folta discussed plant plasticity, the way in which the same plant genetics can result in different flavors, colors, and shelf life simply by changing the exposure to light wavelength.  During the first breakout session I attended lectures by Harrow’s Research Centre.  Harrow’s is located in Ontario and works closely with growers to recommend lighting recipes and applications.

For us, it wasn’t just learning, as prime sponsors, we had a company booth and an opportunity to give a short presentation about Illumitex.  During the presentation I described how Illumitex is a solutions provider and show off our latest horticulture products, the PowerHarvest W and Eclipse Gen2.  At the table I put up a video loop with many of our product, in-house experiments, and #TipTuesday videos.  The breaks were incredibly busy talking to attendees and developing relationships with potential new customers.

The next two days were filled with more engaging speakers, including Wim van Ieperen from Wageningen University who talked about the balance of PSI and PSII and light adaptation effects.  Morgan Pattison from US-DOE Solid State Lighting discussed trends in LED chemistry and AJ Both from Rutgers discussed the idea of a “horticulture lighting label” for lighting manufacturers.   Kale Harbick from Cornell University discussed energy simulation models for greenhouse and indoor growing facilities, and Gioia Massa from Kennedy Space Center described the challenges for designing advanced plant habitat systems in space.

Three full days of talks ended in a wonderful dinner banquet.  One of my favorite photos is the one where I am sitting beside Dr. Cary Mitchel and photo bombed by Chris Higgins from HortAmericas.

Thursday was also a lot of fun, Illumitex sponsored two bus field trips.  The tour I attended visited Four Star Nursery where we learned about the unique challenges in floriculture greenhouse farming.

After four days I was exhausted but also incredibly motivated.  Seeing and discussing cutting-edge research from around the world was inspiring and helpful as we continue to innovate at Illumitex.  We had an amazing opportunity as prime sponsors to support the field and the camaraderie of this community!  I’m already looking forward to the next Symposium!

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