On the photosynthetic responses of crops to intracanopy lighting with light emitting diodes

G. Trouwborst

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Key words: Cucumis sativus, intracanopy lighting, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), light distribution, light interception, light quality, photosynthesis, photosynthetic acclimation

Assimilation lighting is a production factor of increasing importance in Dutch greenhouse horticulture. Assimilation lighting increases production levels, improves product quality and opens possibilities for year round production. As a drawback, this use of assimilation lighting increases energy inputs and CO2-emission.
Intracanopy lighting (with LEDs) is a technique to enhance the light use efficiency by changing the position of (a part of ) the lamps from above to within the canopy of greenhouse grown crops. Intracanopy lighting (IL) firstly reduces reflection and transmission losses of the supplemental lighting on crop level. These losses are high in traditional top-lighting systems, hence IL yields a higher light absorption on crop level. Secondly, IL creates a more homogenous vertical light distribution which can result in higher light use efficiencies. The aim of present study was to obtain insights in photosynthetic acclimation in response to irradiance level and spectrum in the framework of the applicability of LEDs as light source for intracanopy lighting in indeterminate growing vegetable crops. Intracanopy lighting may vary in (1) position within the crop, in (2) irradiance level and in (3) spectrum.
Leaves deeper in the canopy are older. If leaf age negatively affects the photosynthetic capacity (Amax), then potential positions of IL-lamps reduce. By growing tomato plants horizontally so that irradiance was similar for all leaves from 0-70 days old, it is concluded that during the normal life-span of tomato leaves in cultivation, irradiance and not ageing is the most important factor affecting Amax.
In winter, natural irradiances are low so that new developing leaves acclimate to low irradiances. Later on in their life time these leaves could be exposed to higher irradiances owing to IL. The question arose if cucumber leaves which develop under low irradiance can acclimate to a moderate irradiance. Acclimation of photosynthesis occurred within 7 days but photosynthesis at moderate irradiance and Amax did not reach to that of leaves developed under moderate irradiance. This reveals the importance of photosynthetic acclimation during the leaf developmental phase for crop productivity in scenarios with realistic, moderate fluctuations in irradiance that leaves can be exposed to.
By growing plants under seven different combinations of red and blue light, blue light is shown to have both a qualitative and a quantitative effect on leaf development. Only leaves developed under red light (0% blue) displayed a dysfunctional photosynthetic operation (“red light syndrome”), which was largely alleviated by only 7% blue. Quantitatively, leaf responses to an increasing blue light percentage resembled responses associated with an increase in irradiance.
Leaves developed under red light exposed to a mixture of red and blue (RB) completely recovered within 4 days after exposure to RB-light but remained limited in other leaf parameters, showing limitations in plasticity due to constraints arising from the prior leaf development. Leaves developed under RB also revealed the “red light syndrome” within 7 days of red illumination.
Lastly, the effects of intracanopy lighting with LEDs on the production and development of a cucumber crop was investigated in winter. In the IL-treatment, LEDs supplied 38% of the supplemental irradiance within the canopy; the remaining 62% was supplied as top lighting by High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps. The control was 100% top lighting (HPS lamps). Intracanopy lighting resulted in a greater Amax for leaves at deeper canopy layers but did not increase total biomass or fruit production. This was partly due to a reduced light interception caused by extreme leaf curling, which counteracted the expected higher light absorption by the crop, and partly to a lower dry matter partitioning to the fruits, and thus a greater dry matter partitioning to the leaves compared to the control. The effect of these factors on fruit yield was quantified using a explanatory crop model. Model calculations revealed a large negative effect on the fruit yield due to the greater partitioning to the leaves, whereas the negative effect of leaf curling was small. The effect of a greater Amax at deeper canopy layers was slightly positive. The last however might have indirectly caused the greater partitioning to the leaves as the greater Amax was associated with a preserved leaf mass per area.


Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • van Kooten, Olaf, Promotor
  • van Ieperen, Wim, Co-promotor
  • Harbinson, Jeremy, Co-promotor
Award date3 May 2011
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789085858621
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • greenhouse crops
  • photosynthesis
  • canopy photosynthesis
  • artificial lighting
  • light emitting diodes
  • light penetration
  • greenhouse horticulture
  • light distribution

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    The application of LED-technology in plant production

    Trouwborst, G., Harbinson, J., van Ieperen, W. & van Kooten, O.


    Project: PhD

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