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LEDs Speed Breeding

LEDs Speed Breeding

You don’t think of wheat as the sort of crop that would benefit from LED lighting. What comes to mind are tomatoes and, of course, cannabis. LEDs certainly help in growing these greenhouse plants in any season, but what researchers in England and Australia have managed is not simply to grow some wheat under lights. Instead they have used the LEDs to halve the amount of time it takes for a crop to reach maturity.

Three times as fast

Using LEDs specially tuned to the optimal spectrum for wheat, the teams at the University of Queensland and the John Innes Centre in Norwich illuminated their crops for up to 22 hours a day to achieve a result that is three times as fast as previous techniques that could only manage two generations of wheat a year.

Boon to researchers

Producing six generations from seed to seed annually is a boon to researchers as Dr Brande Wulff of the John Innes Centre explains: “Globally, we face a huge challenge in breeding higher yielding and more resilient crops. Being able to cycle through more generations in less time will allow us to more rapidly create and test genetic combinations, looking for the best combinations for different environments.”

Cost less

Compared to the sodium vapour lamps that have been used in these facilities, the LEDs allow for a more targeted light spectrum, eliminate problems with excessive heat and cost considerably less to run.

Colleague could not believe it

Wheat is not the only crop to benefit from the new method, with 6 generations also achieved for barley, peas and chickpeas. A significant increase to 4 generations was achieved with canola. But it is not just speed that is important. Dr Wulff says the quality of the plants produced has exceeded expectations: “People said you may be able to cycle plants fast, but they will look tiny and insignificant, and only set a few seed. In fact, the new technology creates plants that look better and are healthier than those using standard conditions. One colleague could not believe it when he first saw the results.”
LEDs are driving a new green revolution.

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