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Energy-Efficient Ways Of Growing Greenhouse Tomatoes

Jan 03, 2016 07:11 PM EST
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Greenhouse Grown Tomatoes
Tomato plants received supplemental lighting from high-pressure sodium lamps or LEDs. Results indicate tomato quality was not compromised by the type of light treatment used, suggesting greenhouse growers could use alternative, energy-efficient methods.
(Photo : Michael Dzakovich)

Greenhouse farmers depend on supplemental lighting to grow plump tomatoes during the off-season and satisfy the growing demand for locally grown produce. Most tomato growers turn to energy-saving light-emitting diodes (LEDs), as opposed to high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS). Researchers from Purdue University recently conducted light experiments to see which of the two supplemental lighting mechanisms benefit tomatoes most in greenhouse operations.

"There is great interest in (LEDs) potential to influence the phytochemical and flavor profile of various high-value crops," the authors wrote in their study. "However, little fruit quality-attribute work with LEDs has been done on a long-duration, full grow-out of tomatoes."

Researchers Michael Dzakovich, Celina Gómez, and Cary Mitchell from the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University conducted three separate experiments to tests the effect of supplemental light quantity and quality on greenhouse-grown tomatoes, according to a news release.

For their study, a control group of plants was grown under only natural solar radiation, while the two other groups were subjected to a combination of natural solar radiation plus supplemental lighting from HPS or LEDs. Researchers monitored the crops closely as they grew and discovered the use of LEDs did not compromise the fruits' quality.

After the tomatoes were full-grown, tasters ranked them based on color, acidity, aroma, texture, sweetness and aftertaste. 

"By collecting both physicochemical [relating to physics and chemistry or physical chemistry] and sensory data, we were able to determine whether statistically significant physicochemical parameters of tomato fruit also reflected consumer perception of fruit quality," the authors added in the release.

Their findings, recently published in the journal HortScience, demonstrate LEDs as an alternative for HPS lighting is a promising for tomato growers interested in reducing energy consumption in greenhouses.

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