Propagation With LED Lighting

Rodney Elliott says eventually all of Integrated Botanics' greenhouses will have irrigation booms with LED lights.

As Seville Farms in Mansfield, Texas, expands its production to include more annuals, young plant producer Integrated Botanics has benefited from the increase. An increasing percentage of the finished plants that Seville Farms produces began as starter plants at Integrated Botanics, also located in Mansfield. Ninety-five percent of the young plants produced by Integrated Botanics are sold to Seville Farms. The other 5 percent of Integrated Botanics’ sales are through brokers.

“Increasing our outside sales has always been our goal,” says Integrated Botanics General Manager Rodney Elliott. “The limiting factor has been the production space available. Even during the summer we are maxed out of space. This has made it difficult to have any kind of availability and speculation for outside sales. Unless we receive a pre-booked order, it’s hard to speculate due to space restrictions.”

Eleven-year-old Integrated Botanics produces annuals and perennials, herbs, vegetables, vining plants, groundcovers and tropicals.

“Until this year, we produced primarily perennials,” Elliott says. “We have added some production space and taken on a lot more annuals, especially seed-propagated annuals. Right now we have just over an acre of production space. Last year, we produced close to 12 million inputs, including plugs and cuttings. We haven’t done anything with tissue culture yet. We’d like to look at that at some point, especially since we are starting to work with LEDs.”

Integrated Botanics Is Primed For Propagation
Elliott, who has been at Integrated Botanics for two years, says before he was hired, the company had a very basic production facility that was used to propagate groundcovers and perennials.

“I previously worked at Heimos Greenhouses in St. Louis, which did a lot of plant propagation,” Elliott says. “When I arrived at Integrated Botanics, the production facilities included stationary benches, mist lines with simple controllers and exterior shadecloth over the houses. We took an existing 1-acre Seville gutter-connected greenhouse and basically gutted and retrofitted it. We shortened the greenhouse from 200 to 150 feet long and installed fan-and-pad cooling. Other improvements included a Bouldin & Lawson flat filler, Cherry Creek boom irrigation, Rough Brothers rolling benches, Delta T fin tube heating, an Argus environmental control computer and two Svensson shade curtains inside the greenhouse. Along with the installation of the Philips LED lights, this setup is probably better than any I have previously worked with.”

LEDs Initiate Germination With Less Stretching
In addition to the improvements Integrated Botanics made to its production facilities, the company also added a germination room.

The design of the germination room, which came from Seville’s former corporate head grower Mark Clemens, consists of a room within a room.

“We took an old non-functioning cooler and installed it in the greenhouse headhouse,” Elliott says. “We built a metal building around the cooler. Environmental controls were installed inside the metal building, which enables us to maintain constant temperature and humidity levels within the cooler.”

Originally the germination room was equipped with six 4-foot fluorescent lamp fixtures. The fluorescent lights were replaced in December 2012 with 10 Philips GreenPower LED deep red/blue Production Modules. The germination room can hold 1,125 324-cell plug trays.

“The goal of using the LEDs is to initiate germination of seedlings with a side benefit of reducing stretch,” Elliott says. “The LEDs provide both red and blue light, which is a better wavelength spectrum, and they also provide more light than the fluorescents.

“The biggest advantage of the LEDs over the fluorescents is that they have very little heat output. With the fluorescent lights, they would raise the temperature in the germination room by 20ºF just from the ballasts and bulbs. The LEDs only raised the temperature 5ºF. It is much easier to control the temperature in the room with the LEDs. That was a big improvement.”

Mixing Lighting With Irrigation
Integrated Botanics has also added LED Production Modules to one of the irrigation booms in its greenhouse.

“We first tried the LEDs on the boom for night interruption lighting on dahlias,” Elliott says. “I wired the LEDs into the boom on a solenoid switch so I could light the crop. LEDs are really directional so you can treat the light almost like water. There may be crops in the greenhouse that may not need light along with crops that do. Having the LEDs on the boom makes this is a very versatile setup. Prior to installing the LEDs on the boom, we were using incandescent bulbs in the greenhouses. The lights were set on a timer and were stationary, not on the boom.”

Elliott says when he started looking at alternatives to incandescent bulbs he considered using 400- and 600-watt high-pressure sodium lamps.

“Cost-wise, they were almost the same as the LEDs,” he says. “They produce more heat and pull a lot of amperage, too. Right now we have 12 LED Production Modules on one boom. We worked with Hort Americas to determine the number of modules to use on the boom. We are going to do some additional studies to see if we can reduce the number of modules needed for each boom. I don’t think that we will be able to go lower than six modules because the light given off by the LEDs is fairly directional. If reduced to fewer than six modules per boom, we wouldn’t get the coverage we needed.”

A Versatile Lighting Option
Elliott says using the LEDs on the boom is basically like a watering cycle.

“We trialed how many minute intervals between each pass along with the length of the house,” he says. “The speed of the boom has to be right, too. Right now, we are overcompensating and running the boom as slow as we can. This ensures that we deliver the maximum amount of moles of light on the plants for the night interruption cycle.

“We haven’t tried the boom on every crop that we can try it on. There are certain crops that I know will benefit from the lights. We’re going to keep experimenting to see what crops the lights are effective on. We plan to use the lights on garden mums and asters.”

Elliott says all of the greenhouses will eventually be equipped with irrigation booms and LEDs.

“The other thing we are considering with the booms is adding another solenoid valve to allow us to light on each side of the aisle,” he says. “The way the booms are set up, we have an aisle in the middle of each house. Usually the way we stick cuttings is we fill up one side of a house and then go to the other side. It’s possible that we wouldn’t have the same crop on each side of the aisle. We could segregate it so only one side of the house is lighted at a time. We could also light one side longer than the other side. We can control the light however we want.”

Replacing Incandescent Bulbs
Elliott equipped one of the houses that Integrated Botanics received from Seville Farms with Philips GreenPower LED deep red/white flowering lamps. The LEDs, which are replacements for incandescent bulbs, can be used for photoperiod lighting.

“We wanted to try both the LED flowering lamps and the LED Production Modules,” Elliott says. “The spectrum of light of the LEDs is more precise than the incandescents. The light given off by the LED flowering lamps is not as directional as the LED Production Modules. We use our Argus environmental control computer to control the flowering lamps.”

Elliott used the LED flowering lamps primarily on annuals and hibiscus in the spring.

“Once we install booms in all of the houses, we’ll probably move the flowering lamps to another area. They are portable and easy to move. We can take them down and move them to another section if we need to. Or we may decide to leave one house with the flowering lamps.”

Elliott is also interested in learning what annuals the LEDs can have an effect on.

“Besides petunias, we haven’t determined yet if the LEDs hasten flowering of any of the other crops,” he says. “We know that petunias benefit from the additional light. Since we have just gotten into annual propagation, we are still learning. This was the first year we used the LED flowering lamps, so this fall and next spring we are definitely going to be looking for an effect.”

Integrated Botanics
Founded: By Billy Brentlinger in 2002 in Mansfield, Texas
Production area: 1 acre of environmentally controlled greenhouse space. The company is planning to expand with an additional acre of greenhouses.
Crops: Annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, vining plants, groundcovers and tropicals
Customers: Seville Farms and brokers

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

August 27, 2015

The Perennial Plant Association’s Regional Symposium Will Be This October In Dallas

The Perennial Plant Association plans to hold its Regional Symposium October 5 in Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the All-America Selections/Home Garden Seed Association's Summer/Fall Summit held October 5 to 8.

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More

August 21, 2015

Proven Winners Announces Roadshow Events For 2015

Proven Winner's Roadshow Events, held across North America, provide growers and retailers with the opportunity to learn how to grow Proven Winner's newest varieties and receive information about industry trends.

Read More
Latest Stories

August 19, 2015

Greenhouse Growing Recommendations For Lobularia

Modern-day Lobularias are garden classics with good vigor and long bloom times. These growing recommendations will help keep your crop in prime condition.

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Grow…

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

June 27, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabi…

As most growers know well, the federal government regulates all insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other commercial chemicals used on agricultural crops. Therein lies the problem with use of chemicals on cannabis crops – so far, the feds want nothing to do with legalized marijuana. According to “Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabis,” a June 17 article on the National Public Radio (NPR) network by Agribusiness Reporter Luke Runyon, the lack of regulated chemicals for cannabis has left growers to experiment on their own. “In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.” Denver officials held tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year due to safety concerns, but […]

Read More

June 16, 2015

The Butterfly Effect: Insect’s Wings Key To Azalea Poll…

A researcher from North Carolina State University (NC State) has found that in the case of the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), all pollinators are not created equal. In fact, due to the flower’s unique reproductive structure, butterflies — and specifically, their wings — are the key to pollination. The flame azalea is commonly found in the Appalachian Mountains, ranging from as far north as New York to Georgia in the south. Like most azaleas, the flowers are large, and have an unusual structure: both the anther (male) and stigma (female) parts are very elongated and separated from one another. NC State biologist Mary Jane Epps was interested in how the azalea’s flower structure affected its pollination. “In order for a plant to reproduce, a pollinator — usually an insect — has to spread the pollen from the anther to the stigma,” Epps says. “In the case of the flame azalea, […]

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 11, 2015

Pollinator Initiative Promotes Bee-Friendly Talking Poi…

AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working tirelessly with the ornamental industry's Pollinator Stewardship Initiative on a number of new projects.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Infusion Technology Boosts Seed Performance, Study Sugg…

Seven-year-old wheat seed germination can increase by as much as 83 percent, according to a Vital Force Technology Study that looks at the effects of energy infusion technology on plant vitality.

Read More

February 3, 2015

American Floral Endowment Accepting Research Pre-Propos…

If you are pursuing a floriculture research project, now is the time to apply for funding through the American Floral Endowment. Research pre-proposal applications for 2015-2016 funding are due to AFE by June 1, 2015.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Marijuana’s Trajectory And Ascent To Horticultural Cr…

Marijuana growing is poised for change as growers and researchers focus on improving production practices.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Greenhouse Production: Two Years Of Basics & Beyond…

Greenhouse Grower's Basics & Beyond articles cover some of the latest news and research going on in greenhouse production. Here are article links for the last two years.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 24, 2014

GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile &…

The social garden app GrowIt! takes the Gold Winner award at the design100 2014 Mobile & App Design Awards.

Read More

November 10, 2014

The Perennial Farm Joins HGTV HOME Plant Collection

The Perennial Farm joins the HGTV HOME Plant Collection growers' network for 2015.

Read More

November 4, 2014

AmericanHort Publishes Revised American Standard For Nu…

AmericanHort announces the revised American Standard for Nursery Stock (ANSI Z60.1) is now available for industry use. The Standard reflects the consensus of the industry regarding how nursery stock — living plants other than annuals — should be specified and sold within the trade.

Read More

September 26, 2014

Master The Art Of Watering

Watering is elemental to healthy plants, but one of the hardest concepts for new employees to master in the greenhouse. Recommend these tips to start them off right.

Read More

September 16, 2014

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas Facility Provides Gro…

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas farm in Esteli, Nicaragua, is one year away from full production, but sales and quality from the two-year-old facility are right on track.

Read More
Erysimum 'Cheers' from Darwin Perennials

September 15, 2014

Darwin Perennials Takes Production Offshore In Bogota, …

With its recent purchase of a farm in Colombia, Darwin Perennials is ready to amp up supply of its perennial genetics, to provide growers with tried-and-true varieties and comprehensive production specifications.

Read More

July 23, 2014

Plan Now To Prevent Bract Edge Burn On Poinsettias

Reduce fertilizer and water, and allow your poinsettias to develop slowly during the final four weeks of production to avoid bract edge burn.

Read More

July 11, 2014

Growing Your Crops Above Their Base Temperature

Lowering temperature set points in the greenhouse may help you combat rising heating costs.

Read More