Can we grow strawberries all year long? At least 40 hectares of heated glass in the Netherlands are now using LED lights to grow strawberries all year long. Dutch consumers are now able to buy strawberries for the lucrative Christmas market. Soft Fruit Specialist Eamonn Kehoe has more information
A recent webinars run for soft fruit growers focused on the recent advances in the use of light supplementation. The presentation was given by two speakers from Philips. N.V. Philips are one of the biggest electronics companies in the world. They are also one of the leaders in lighting technology and have a specialised unit devoted to lighting in various horticultural crops. Their centre of excellence is based in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. Eindhoven is often called the 'Philips city'. Peers Hermans the main horticultural lighting specialist gave an amazing presentation on the benefits of light supplementation, focusing specifically on strawberry crops.
Light supplementation is primarily delivered by using light-emitting diodes (LED's). Technology has allowed for many husbandry improvements. An LED light array can be designed for a specific crop and tailored for a particular part of the growing season. The amount of white, red and far-red light for example needed by a grower for his crop can be engineered in the factory.
LED’s are also very energy efficient leading to huge energy savings and a much lower carbon footprint. For example, a 9w LED will give a similar light output as a 100w incandescent light bulb. Many growers in Ireland use mostly incandescent light bulbs as ‘night break’ lights. Night-break lights are needed to break crop dormancy. Without the treatment crop yields and strawberry quality are much lower. Night-break lighting is even more crucial in a mild winter where the strawberry crop receives inadequate chilling.
We recently installed Philips ‘GreenPower 2.0 ‘night break’ lights in our strawberry glasshouse units in Teagasc, Ashtown Research Centre. The light gives the optimum amounts of deep red, white and far-red radiation for the strawberry crop. The lights are used for about 40 days once the strawberry crops begin to actively grow. The lights are working extremely well and are hugely energy efficient (over 90 per cent).
Can we grow strawberries all year long?
LED technology offers huge potential for the industry. At least 40 hectares of heated glass in the Netherlands are now using LED lights to grow strawberries all year long. This means Dutch consumers are now able to buy strawberries for the lucrative Christmas market. They are also able to achieve a higher price for their produce.
The Philips scientists expect this to grow quickly as growers adopt the new technology. More research and development is ongoing, not only concerning the effects of the lights on crop growth but also beneficial insects and bumblebees. So far the bumblebees do not seem to be affected by the LED light wavelengths.
Extension of Crop Season
LED's could also have a big role to play in the season extension of ever-bearing strawberries. Ever-bearing strawberries are very dependent on a combination of increased temperature and increased