How Light Quality Affects Greenhouse Tomato Production ?
Tomato growth is highly reliant on light exposure. The optimum conditions for the production of tomatoes are where the plants have upwards of eight hours of light exposure. However, different geographies experience different light exposures. To combat this, farmers across the world have adapted to greenhouses.
One of the critical elements a farmer can control with greenhouse farming is light quality and exposure. Lights affect tomato production significantly. Initially, farmers used high-pressure sodium lamps to help manage light in their greenhouses, but that has been phased out, and now they go to LED lighting solutions.
Why Use LED Grow Lights?
The LED grow lights for tomatoes are highly favored for several reasons, including:
LEDs have the best cost ratio compared to other forms of lighting that can be used in the greenhouse, and factoring in that tomatoes require a lot of light. Furthermore, their prices are significantly lower because of the investments in researching and developing ever more efficient LEDs. In addition, they give the best results where they are installed, ensuring the farmer fetches top dollar for their crops.
In addition to the reduced energy and installation costs, LEDs significantly Lights affects tomato production. They reduce the cost needed to farm good quality tomatoes.
LED tomato grow lights use in greenhouses opens the possibility of being able to grow tomatoes anywhere in the world. LEDs give the plants they need to grow despite whatever conditions going on outside the greenhouse.
Reduce Time to Market
Better light exposure ensures faster growth and better production. LEDs provide the best option for lighting the plants in the greenhouse. This makes the plants grow faster, hence reducing the time to market.
Produce from greenhouses that have used LEDs to grow their plants is juicier and healthier. Also, with the possibility of growing the tomatoes everywhere, the time it takes from harvest to get to the consumer is reduced significantly, hence fresher, healthier produce.
Reducing Exorbitant Shipping Goals
It is incredibly expensive to ship tomatoes from the warmer parts of the world to colder regions. Therefore, being able to farm indoors with the help of LEDs reduces the need to ship these tomatoes across the globe, significantly saving on cost.
What You Need to Know
Having understood how to grow tomatoes under light and learning how they improve potato production, there are several questions we need to answer more in-depth.
Importance of Light to Tomatoes
Tomatoes demand a lot of light to grow and produce fruit. It is evident from the seedlings. The more light seedlings are exposed to, the faster they grow to reach fruit-bearing levels. Therefore, as opposed to other plants that can be grown comfortably in the house or the shade, tomatoes require a lot of light.
Although the most optimum light is sunlight, sunlight is a limited resource. Some places experience good sunlight for just a few hours a day. In addition, different seasons dictate the amount of sunlight a given geographical region can receive. Therefore, to have more control, you should use a greenhouse to control the light your plants get, among other conditions.
There are different lights you can use for your greenhouse tomatoes. These are
Fluorescents are the cheapest on the market, but they cannot give your plants the full spectrum of light they need. In addition, their penetration ability into the plants is limited; hence your tomatoes don’t get quenched in terms of their light requirements.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID)
These lights come in two types; High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Metal Halide (MH). These types of light are functional for different stages of your tomato growth, but they are mostly used in semi-professional setups. They also consume a lot of power and give off a lot of heat that requires management. If light produces a lot of heat, it must be kept at a distance from the plants, which is also counterproductive as it reduces the number of light plants get to take advantage of.
LEDs are the best for indoor tomato farming. LEDs are easily customizable for the wavelengths and spectrums that tomatoes need at different times of their growth. You can customize the spectrum of LED lights to match the natural sunlight. They also consume significantly less energy compared to other forms of lighting. Even while consuming less energy, they help the plants increase the yield and quality of the tomato fruit. They produce less heat and hence can be placed closer to the plants, which increases light intensity, and also, its light can penetrate deeper into the plant, enhancing plant yield and quality.
Light Exposure, Warm or Cool?
The tomato plants go through two stages; growth from seedling and flowering and fruit production. The needs of the plant while growing and flowering in terms of whether warm or cool light differ.
While the tomato plant is growing and forming leaves and vines, it needs cool lights. On the other hand, cool lights stimulate healthy vines and leaves but do very little for fruit production and flowering.
On the other hand, warm light stimulates the healthy production of flowers and fruit-bearing but does very little for leaves and vine growth.
With LED light, farmers can customize the light to fit the specific scenarios that the plant needs to ensure maximum quality.
Light Intensity Requirements
Apart from exposure, the intensity of light the tomatoes get exposed to also matters greatly. Therefore, using the LEDs, you can better control the intensity, height, and distance from the plants.
Just like light exposure varies with the different stages of growth, so does the light intensity. When the plants are in their germination stage, they need between 20% and 40% light intensity. Once they are seedlings, you can increase the intensity to between 40% and 60%. When the plants start producing leaves and becoming vegetative, you can pump the intensity to between 60% and 90%. Finally, they need all the light they can get with flowering and fruit-bearing. So do not hold back. Give them 100%.
For optimal indoor tomato growth, use 7000 lumens. These are the optimum brightness for plant growth.
Energy is a high cost when it comes to production costs. LEDs are very efficient when it comes to saving on energy consumption. When using LEDs, the average energy required per square foot in watts is 40. Knowing the space, you are farming your tomatoes. You can calculate the amount of energy you need. Be keen while making this calculation and consider only the areas occupied by the plant for accurate approximations.
Tomatoes require high-intensity light. These LED lights are the best because they produce high-intensity light and can also be placed strategically in the greenhouse to make the tomato produce to its fullest potential. Ideally, LED lights should not be placed higher than 30 inches above the plants.
Light Exposure Duration
It is important to give your plants a higher quality light exposure, but the light exposure should not be throughout the day. There is a need to balance light exposure moments and dark moments. Just like we need rest to be productive, the tomatoes need some rest too. Typically 16 hours of light exposure requires 8 hours of rest. But again, this is subject to customization according to your specific case.
Impact of LEDs on Tomato Production
Having learned the different dynamics that are in play when using lighting for your greenhouse tomatoes, how does light quality affects greenhouse tomato production?
With the efficiency of LEDs, farmers can grow tomatoes all year round. Farming all year round means more tomato produce, which makes farming more stable and profitable. Also, these farmers can take advantage of the low supply season in the market when they sell their produce for a significantly better price. The impact of LEDs, therefore, cannot be underplayed. They have truly changed the farming game and are continuing to do so.
When farmers supply the plant with the light it needs, it can grow unhindered. In addition, with LEDs, the farmer can customize the lighting condition to ensure that the plant is sufficiently lit at every growth stage. This ensures that the tomato quality of growth is outstanding from germination to harvesting.
Better-grown plants are very nutritious and fresh. Therefore, these tomatoes have been able to produce and grow optimally at every stage.
Lower Production Cost
Even before factoring in the price of LED light fixtures used in the greenhouse, which is significantly cheaper, the fact that growing tomatoes under LED lights helps the farmer optimize their farming to produce the best quality products and be able to do that all year round. Taking advantage of higher price markets is enough incentive to have LEDs. But the LEDs also use significantly less energy and are considerably cheaper to install. In addition, to cut the cost further, one can use LED solar light for plants.
What to Do
Although lighting solutions are phenomenal in growing tomatoes under lights, these solutions are not one size for all. You need to contact experts who can curate a solution for you depending on the latest trends and research, your geographical location, your available energy, and your specific plant, factoring in even the cultivars. Your operational considerations within the greenhouse are also a huge consideration in determining the best lighting solution for you.