Expert Insights: Ultraviolet lighting
By Cosmo MacKenzie • 3 weeks Ago
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By Cosmo MacKenzie • 3 weeks Ago
Ultraviolet (UV) light isn’t visible to the naked eye, but despite making up only about 10% of sunlight, it has a significant chemical and biological effect on plants and animals; sunburn is the effect most people will be familiar with. Just as sunburn can lead to cancer in humans, so Ultraviolet light can damage the DNA of seeds.
Unlike humans, plants can’t simply step into the shade to avoid UV. Instead, they produce biological versions of sunblock. It seems logical then to protect plants from Ultraviolet light – traditionally that’s exactly what indoor growers have done; greenhouse glass largely blocks out UV light.
The trouble is, the trichomes, resins, and unique plant compounds that plants produce as biological sunblock are often exactly the elements that we farm them for. Recent research has shown that supplemental Ultraviolet light is significantly beneficial to the flavour of plants grown indoors.
UVR8 is a plant protein responsible for detecting Ultraviolet light and initialising the plant stress response. Plants respond to this type of stress by switching their efforts from growing to protecting themselves by increasing the production of the trichomes, resins, and unique plant compounds that act as biological sunblock.
That switch away from growth obviously isn’t something you want to happen early on in the life cycle of your plants. Using supplemental lighting allows growers to control the time and frequency of exposure to UV light, focusing on the later stages of your plants’ life cycle. You can read more about the process in our interview with Solacure’s Dennis Brown. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to look at how their UV Light, The Flower Power, works.
The Flower Power is the world’s first true UV tube for indoor growing. The Flower Power is based on twelve years of research and thirty-five years of building UV products. It uses a special patented glass that is more transparent to UVB.
The tube is a 100% UV design with 34% UVB and 66% UVA and no VIS (visible spectrum) phosphors. Each tube has a built-in reflector, poured inside the tube. This mean no light is emitted behind the lamp; everything is reflected and sent to the plants. This increases the output of the lamp 35%-50% on average.
While other lamps generally produce 300nm to 400nm, the Flower Power produces the entire UVA/B spectrum, all the way down to 280nm. This means it can trigger the UVR8 protein, a special signalling protein found in most plants, known to act as a chemical messenger for the host plant.
The combination of the built-in reflector, having twice the UVB spectrum, and patented glass makes the Flower Power significantly stronger than other UV lights. The benefits of using the Flower Power are threefold: Primarily, the Flower Power is proven to increase the content of unique plant compounds that function as sunblock to protect plants.
Additionally, because they are broadband UV, they kill powdery mildew (PM) and other kinds of mildew and mould. While they aren’t a substitute for good sanitation, they will stop PM from getting a foothold in a properly maintained system.
Finally, Flower Power lights kill many insects due to the high level of UVA. UVA interferes with insects’ DNA, breeding and life cycle – stopping infestations in their tracks. Flower Power lights are a valuable addition to any well-managed grow room.
Flower Power bulbs only need to be run two to four hours per day during the flowering stage. They are designed to operate at over 70% of original power for at least three flowering seasons. From a safety standpoint, this allows you to schedule the lights to be on when no people are around.
The plant will grow less tall during flowering when you use high level UVB, the fruit and flower will be more compact, although the yield will be about the same. Flower Power lights can also be used in an empty room for 48 hours continuously in order to somewhat sterilise the space before you move your plants in. Some people use them an hour a day in late veg to jumpstart trichome production, but this is optional.
Flower Power bulbs can be powered anywhere from 20 watts to 100 watts each, so they can be used in grow tents, in industrial greenhouses, or anything in between. Most people will run two Flower Power tubes for every 1000w hood (or equivalent), but it varies. Because they are so strong and can be run for so few hours, the primary consideration for choosing the number of tubes is coverage, not power, as they have power to spare.
In a grow room with lights that are one to two metres away from the plants, you can always run the Flower Power that high and just run them more hours. Or power them with more watts. Or both. They have the headroom and tolerance to be adapted to any room, any kind of light (MH, HPS, LED, etc).
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