New Horizons in Science

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LEDs arm a greenhouse "light brigade"

Topic: Horticulture and Nutrition
close up of LEDs from a sign
Ellen Martin
Monday, November 4, 2013 -
1:45pm to 2:30pm
Century Ballroom A

What will the strawberry field, grocery store, florist’s greenhouse and space station of the future have in common? In Kevin Folta’s vision, they’ll all have automatic lighting systems and reflective surfaces that use varying colors of light to fine-tune nutrition, flavor and many other attributes in plants. Since the dawn of photosynthesis, many aspects of the lives of plants have been managed by photoreceptor chemistry. Now that inexpensive LEDs are available in many wavebands, Folta’s lab has found ways to manipulate gene expression in growing and harvested plants to dynamically improve nutrition and flavor, control pests, time flowering and ripening and retard spoilage. These techniques have already found their way into fields in the form of colored mulches and reflective films. In the cut-flower industry, light may soon replace the chemicals applied to switch on flowering.


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