Optimal photoperiod for indoor cultivation of leafy vegetables and herbs

G. Pennisi*, F. Orsini, M. Landolfo, A. Pistillo, A. Crepaldi, S. Nicola, J.A. Fernández, L.F.M. Marcelis, G. Gianquinto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


In Vertical Farms with Artificial Lighting (VFALs), optimal light management is a crucial determinant of both economic and environmental viability. Applications of LED technologies to plant cultivation are still recent, and research has to date mainly targeted the definition of optimal spectral and light intensity features. On the other hand, despite the relevant implications on production costs, literature on optimal photoperiod management is to date limited. Indeed, the number of hours per day correlates with the total light supplied to the crop - expressed as Daily Light Integral (DLI) - and the associated energetic costs. The present study aims at defining how photoperiods of 16 h d-1 (DLI= 14.4 mol m-2 d-1), 20 h d-1 (DLI= 18 mol m-2 d-1) and 24 h d-1 (DLI= 21.6 mol m-2 d-1)of light affect growth performances and resource use efficiency in leafy vegetables and herbs, represented by lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), rocket (Eruca sativa Mill.), and chicory (Cichorium intybus L.). Plants were cultivated indoor under a red (R) and blue (B) LED light (RB=3, photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD)=250 µmol m-2 s-1). Photoperiod variations’ effects differed according to the considered plant species. In lettuce and chicory, the adoption of a DLI of 14.4 mol m-2 d-1 at 16 h d-1 photoperiod resulted in a greater plants fresh biomass and leaf area, which also contributed to generally obtain higher energy use efficiency (fresh biomass per unit of electricity input), light use efficiency (dry biomass per unit of light input) and, in chicory, also water use efficiency (fresh biomass per liter of water consumed). Contrarily, although photoperiod variations did not affect basil and rocket growth parameters (e.g., fresh biomass and leaf area) and the plant capacity to transform resources (e.g., water use efficiency and light use efficiency), energy use efficiency in basil also presented a downward trend in response to growing DLI. Accordingly, the adoption of a DLI of 14.4 mol m-2 d-1 at 16 h d-1 photoperiod resulted to be the optimal option among the ones tested in the presented research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-338
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Horticultural Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Daily Light Integral (DLI)
  • Energy Use Efficiency (EUE)
  • Light Use Efficiency (LUE)
  • Plant Factory with Artificial Lighting (PFAL)
  • Vertical farm
  • Water Use Efficiency (WUE)


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