Photo by Kushington Farms.
Marijuana Growers Take a Second Look at LED
By Craig Halseth
We’ve all heard LED grow lights have the potential to revolutionize indoor cannabis growing – at least on paper. Yet, when the topic of LED grow lights comes up, it’s often met with bristling from cultivators who have been burned by unrequited LED desires in harvests past.
Most agree, no light source grows better cannabis than natural sunlight. Its powerful rays increase density, resin production, aroma and flavor. And its known to produce faster growth with stronger root systems than artificial light.
Lighting companies like Philips and Cree have released innovative high intensity LED diodes whose color patterns can be tailored to the specific needs of the cannabis plant. Grow light companies are taking notice, and debuting new LED grow lights that leverage this technology.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS), Induction, and Plasma lamps have all been designed to mimic the qualities of natural sunlight. And while these artificial light sources are still not equal to sunlight, they have become the standard lighting for indoor grow rooms around the world.
Recently, mainstream lighting companies like Philips and Cree have released innovative high intensity LED diodes whose color patterns can be tailored to the specific needs of the cannabis plant. Grow light companies are taking notice, and debuting new LED grow lights that leverage this technology.
One such company is Lush Lighting who are using Cree LED diodes in their vegetation and flowering lights. Lush Lighting’s CEO, Matt Johnson, says LED grow light technology is superior to traditional lights because LED lights have no consumables like bulbs and ballasts, they last longer (up to 10 years with little drop off of quality or intensity), and they produce less heat which lowers a garden’s overall power consumption.
But Johnson says the differentiator in Lush Lighting’s products is their color spectrum. “Building quality LED grow lights requires understanding of both biochemistry and engineering,” Johnson says.
“Inside a LED grow light are diodes producing different colors. Each color produces a different voltage of energy measured in electron volts. Plant’s pigments are sensitive to this voltage from within light as this is the fuel source for photosynthesis. Lush Lighting’s spectrum is designed to fuel plants with the same type of light that comes from the sun. Chlorophyll, the most abundant plant pigment, is most efficient in capturing red and blue light. Accessory pigments such as Carotenes, Xanthophylls and Phycobilin proteins harvest the other colors along the R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. line.”
“Not only did I see an increase in production, I saw a huge increase in the quality that was being grown. I had buds forming sooner which lead to trichomes forming sooner, and buds being covered in frost like I never saw using conventional lighting.”
Phycobilin proteins deserve special mention for their potential health benefit to humans, apart from their presence in the leaves of the marijuana plant and energy production capacities. In particular, Phycocyanin exists in the leaves of cannabis plants, and is at least partially responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of the well known food Spirulina.
Johnson says, “plants grown with Lush’s LED grow lights will need to be treated as if growing outdoors. Plants have to split water molecules in order to grow. Many people think that plants are converting carbon dioxide into the oxygen they release. This is not the case. Carbon dioxide is actually broken down through photosynthesis and reformed into glucose. The oxygen does not get released here. The oxygen that plants are so well known for producing is actually coming from splitting water molecules. With the increase in photon energy, Lush Lighting’s LED grow lights increase the rate of cellular division in your plant, increasing demand for water.”
Illustration by Lush Lighting.
Nature’s Way Wellness Center (NWWC) in Colorado Springs operates a 2000 plant garden configured to produce a perpetual harvest. Looking for ways to further optimize his garden’s output, Nature’s Way Wellness Center’s master grower first did a side-by-side test, growing the same plants under Lush Lightings’s LED grow lights and his existing HPS lights. The LED lit grow out-produced NWWC’s HPS plants by 27%. With power requirements nearing a million watts per year, a shift to LED grow lights could produce a significant savings in electricity for Nature’s Way while also increasing yields.
“After our initial testing phase, Lush Lighting’s LED grow lights went on to help us survive a brutal summer of heat,” said NWWC’s master grower. “Our flower room was getting extremely hot and the HVAC system was having a tough time keeping up. We replaced approximately 40 lights with LEDs and our temps dropped about 10F. The plants were happy, healthy and full of crystals with no signs of heat stress. One of our regular patients commented on our Skywalker strain grown under LED and said it was the ‘smoothest, best tasting, best product’ she had ever had out of our store and she’s been a patient for almost 4 years. We love our Lush LEDs and will continue using them with great success.”
Michigan medical marijuana facility Kushington Farms generates 100 pounds of cannabis per year with a 72 plant perpetual harvest system using LED lights exclusively. Kushington Farms operates on just 100 amps of power while averaging 2 pounds per week of harvested cannabis from 3 plants. Jason runs the show for Kushington Farms and had this to say about his experience with Lush Lighting, “not only did I see an increase in production, I saw a huge increase in the quality that was being grown. I had buds forming sooner which lead to trichomes forming sooner, and buds being covered in frost (trichomes) like I never saw using conventional lighting. I have also seen a decrease in energy consumption. My electric bill went from almost $2000.00 to about $1200.00.”
Could it be that LED grow light technology has finally turned the corner, just as the legalization of marijuana cultivation continues to expand across the country? Are LED grow light brands like Kind, Solis Tek, Illumitek, Stealthy Samaritan, Apache, Philips and Lush Lighting finally introducing technologies that will permanently replace conventional lights that have lit marijuana grow rooms for decades? Let us know in the comments how LED grow lights and other advancements in indoor cannabis lighting have been received in your garden. We’d love to hear from you!