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Growing with PPF

Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF) is a key metric in horticultural lighting, defining the total amount of light in the Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) range (400-700 nm) emitted by a light source per second. It is measured in micromoles of photons per second (µmol/s). PPF provides a quantifiable measure of the light available for photosynthesis, which is essential for assessing the performance of grow lights.


Defining PPF

PPF represents the total number of photons in the PAR range that a light source emits every second. Unlike luminous flux, which measures the perceived brightness of light to the human eye, PPF focuses on the light’s capacity to drive photosynthesis. It is a critical parameter for growers to understand because it directly relates to the potential energy available to plants for photosynthesis.


Calculating Lamp Requirements

Determining the number of lamps required for a given growing area involves calculating the desired light intensity, or Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (PPFD), which is the amount of PPF received per square meter per second (µmol/m²/s). To achieve a target PPFD:


1 Determine Target PPFD: Establish the ideal PPFD for the specific crop and growth stage.

2 Calculate Total PPF Needed: Multiply the target PPFD by the area of the growing space to find the total PPF required.

3 Assess Individual Lamp PPF: Divide the total PPF required by the PPF output of a single lamp to estimate the number of lamps needed.

For example, if a crop requires a PPFD of 400 µmol/m²/s over a 10-square-meter area, the total PPF needed is 4,000 µmol/s. If each lamp produces 800 µmol/s, you would need five lamps to meet the requirement.


Inadequacy of Weighing All Photons Equally

Today’s standard practice in measuring PPF considers all photons within the PAR spectrum as equal contributors to photosynthesis. However, this approach is simplistic and does not fully account for the varying effectiveness of different wavelengths. Plants have specific spectral sensitivity curves, indicating that some wavelengths are more effective than others in driving photosynthesis.


For instance, photons in the red (around 660 nm) and blue (around 450 nm) regions are more efficiently absorbed by chlorophyll and are more effective for photosynthesis compared to photons in the green region (500-600 nm). Therefore, simply using PPF without considering the spectral quality of the light can lead to suboptimal lighting strategies and energy inefficiencies.


A More Realistic Approach: Spectral Sensitivity

A more sophisticated approach to horticultural lighting would involve weighting photons according to their effectiveness based on the plant’s spectral sensitivity curve. This would mean designing lighting systems that optimize the proportion of red and blue light, which are more effective for photosynthesis, rather than providing equal intensities across the PAR spectrum.


This plant-centric approach requires:


1 Understanding Plant Sensitivity: Knowing the specific light absorption characteristics of the crops being grown.

2 Optimizing Light Spectrum: Using light sources that emit higher intensities of the most effective wavelengths (red and blue) to maximize photosynthetic efficiency.

3 Dynamic Lighting Solutions: Employing adjustable LED fixtures that can tailor the light spectrum to the needs of different crops and growth stages.


While PPF is a useful measure for assessing the overall light output of a grow lamp, it does not provide the full picture of a light source’s effectiveness for plant growth. It is crucial to consider the spectral sensitivity of plants and adjust the lighting spectrum accordingly. By focusing on the specific wavelengths that are most effective for photosynthesis, growers can maximize the use of available energy, enhance plant growth, and improve crop yields.


Therefore, rather than relying solely on PPF, a comprehensive lighting strategy should involve tailoring the light spectrum to match the plant sensitivity curve, ensuring that the energy available is used as efficiently as possible. This approach not only improves the growth outcomes but also leads to more sustainable and cost-effective horticultural practices.

We think of TCO and the larger context in which light is delivered. Compared to a standard luminaire, the LED luminaire will work for up to 50,000 hours and significantly reduce light pollution and maintenance costs. An installation where you use an LED luminaire will be better equipped to withstand extremely hot and cold temperatures than a traditional luminaire would be, which makes the LED luminaire suitable for demanding applications.

Total costs means keeping energy costs low. It also means using the right spectrum. Enormous amounts of energy are wasted in greenhouses where our food is grown, because the plants get too much and the wrong kind of light. Almost all the vegetables we eat during the winter are grown in greenhouses under sodium lamps, which are quite common traditional street lighting lamps. The amount of electricity consumed in greenhouses today is approximately 160 terawatt hours, which is as much as the whole of Sweden’s electricity production, the potential with LED lighting means that you can reduce this waste but as much as 50 percent, which corresponds to ten nuclear power reactors. LED luminaires with broad spectrums developed for the plats are much better to save both energy, money and the environment.