Purdue Gets $4.8M Grant For LED Lighting

U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives toured Purdue University greenhouses on Monday to get a preview of the work that will come from a $4.88 million grant for LED lighting research.

Cary Mitchell, a professor of horticulture and project director for the grant, said Purdue researchers will collaborate with Rutgers University, the University of Arizona, Michigan State University and Orbital Technologies on the four-year project to improve and evaluate LED lighting for greenhouse use. The goal is to increase greenhouse yields and decrease producers’ energy costs.

"The high-intensity discharge lamps used today are inefficient. When you have acres and acres of greenhouses with these lamps in them, it really adds up," Mitchell says. "With LED lighting, we should be able to do as well or better with much less energy."

The USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative Award will include $2.44 million from the USDA and an equal amount of in-kind contributions of equipment and services from industry partners. The project is titled "Developing LED Lighting Technology and Practices for Sustainable Specialty-Crop Production."

USDA officials, including Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, toured greenhouses with prototype LED lights like the ones that will be used in the research.

"The specialty crop industry plays an enormously important part in American agriculture and is valued at approximately $50 billion every year,” Merrigan says. “These projects will be key to providing specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process and market safe and high-quality products."

Mitchell’s work will include testing LED lighting on high-wire tomatoes. Those plants can grow taller than 20 feet, and traditional overhead lighting doesn’t reach the lower parts of many plants. Mitchell believes using LED lights on the sides of plants will increase photosynthesis and flowering, improving yield.

Roberto Lopez, an assistant professor of horticulture, will work with about 20 species of bedding plants to test LED lighting’s ability to lower the cost of establishing new plants from cuttings and seeds. Low winter light means growers currently have to use more expensive overhead lighting to establish new plants.

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