Elevating eggplant production thanks to dynamic lighting

At the forefront of agricultural innovation, the introduction of dynamic lighting stands as a transformative solution specifically tailored to the nuanced demands of eggplant cultivation in greenhouses.
March 2024

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This revolutionary approach not only promises to elevate fruit quality and yield but does so by championing energy efficiency and sustainability, and by leveraging cutting-edge technology. This business case introduces a novel methodology for producing greenhouse eggplants, focused on the intricate growth patterns and light sensitivities of various varieties. This strategy not only underscores our commitment to precision agriculture but also highlights a forward-thinking pursuit of harmonizing productivity with environmental stewardship.

Advanced dimming during the shoulder season

For greenhouse growers aiming to utilize supplemental lighting for eggplants, dynamic lighting offers a significant advantage. It accelerates fruit harvests and ensures continuous production throughout the year, while optimizing electrical energy consumption. The capability to finely adjust lighting in response to the variations in natural light conditions of the shoulder months prevents unnecessary expenditure and safeguards the crop from potential photodamage.

Tailoring lighting strategies to cultivar specifics

The eggplant industry is notable for its varietal diversity, with each type requiring a unique cultivation approach. Studies conducted by renowned institutions such as Plant Lighting, Delphy Improvement Center and Harrow Research and Development Centre highlight the importance of a dynamic lighting solution.

These studies demonstrate that the response to lighting is highly variety-specific, with broad-spectrum lighting including a far-red component being crucial for optimal growth. Varieties like Tracey and Beyonce show sensitivity to supplemental lighting, necessitating a careful adjustment of light intensity during the initial growth stages.

Source: Harrow Research and Development Centre

This underlines the value of dynamic lighting in providing precise control over light intensity, enabling growers to customize lighting strategies for different varieties within the same greenhouse.

Photoperiod and light spectrum adjustments

Trials in both Canada and the Netherlands suggest a photoperiod of 16 hours as an effective baseline for eggplant cultivation. Adjustments to the photoperiod can influence the plant's balance between vegetative and generative growth phases. For instance, extending the photoperiod to 20 hours has been found to promote a more generative growth pattern, beneficial for varieties that typically exhibit a vegetative tendency.

Interestingly, a recent trial exploring a 24-hour lighting strategy - with 16 hours under white light and 8 hours under blue light - produced yields comparable to those achieved with both the 20-hour and 16-hour white light photoperiods. This new finding offers growers an additional layer of flexibility, allowing for a nuanced approach to lighting that can be tailored even further to meet the specific needs of their crops.

Moreover, the ability to adjust the Daily Light Integral (DLI) and the spectral composition of the light allows for further optimization of growth conditions. Implementing a lighting strategy that includes both white and blue light during different parts of the day can replicate the ideal conditions for eggplant growth, enhancing yield without increasing energy costs. This innovative approach underscores the potential of dynamic lighting systems to revolutionize eggplant cultivation, offering a sophisticated tool for enhancing both productivity and sustainability in greenhouse operations.

Source: Harrow Research and Development Centre

Optimal DLI for growth stages

The recommended DLI for eggplant propagation starts at 10-12 mol/m²/day, gradually increasing to 18-20 mol/m²/day during the production phase. This staged approach ensures that young plants gradually acclimate to supplemental lighting to photosynthesize optimally once mature. A dynamic lighting solution facilitates the implementation of these varying light intensities, ensuring that each growth stage receives the ideal light quantity and quality.

Photosynthetic efficiency and plant stress management

Research indicates that the photosynthetic efficiency of eggplants decreases throughout the day, highlighting the advantage of dynamic lighting systems capable of adjusting Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (PPFD) targets over the day. This capability allows growers to apply light only to the extent that plants can utilize it, optimizing electricity use and preventing plant stress. By adjusting the light intensity based on the plant's ability to photosynthesize efficiently, growers can avoid the detrimental effects of over lighting, such as reduced growth or photoinhibition.

Beyond yield: enhancing nutritional quality with light

Preliminary research suggests that much like tomatoes, the nutritional quality of eggplants can also be influenced by light quality.

Although specific studies on eggplants are still emerging, the potential for using a dynamic LED grow light solution to improve antioxidant production, like the impact on tomatoes' lycopene and anthocyanin levels, is an exciting area for future exploration. By applying specific light recipes at critical points in the crop cycle, growers might enhance not only the yield and size of the eggplants but also their nutritional value, offering consumers a product that is not only larger and more visually appealing but healthier as well.

In conclusion, the integration of dynamic LED lighting in eggplant cultivation represents a significant leap forward in greenhouse technology. By providing granular control over light intensity, spectrum and timing, growers can tailor their cultivation practices to the unique needs of each variety, optimizing both yield and quality. As the agricultural industry continues to evolve, dynamic lighting stands out as a key tool in the pursuit of sustainable, efficient and high-quality crop production.

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