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Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

AT A GLANCE

Plants under UbiGro exhibited faster growth rates. Under UbiGro, faster growth rates culminated in earlier flowering. Crops grown under UbiGro were ready for harvest on average 7-10 days earlier than were control crops, allowing for an additional crop cycle per year, providing significant additional yearly revenue with UbiGro installed. Crop canopies under UbiGro exhibited a greater surface area and contributed to more rapid growth. Plants grew larger shoot and root systems under UbiGro. Image-based phenotyping is underway to statistically compare growth differences and will be published in 2024.

Ornamental pepper, kale, celosia, angelonia, alternanthera, plectranthus, coleus, and new guinea impatiens

PlantPeddler has been growing annual ornamental crops since 1980. Boasting over 12 acres of covered cultivation space, including glass-glazed greenhouses and Quonset-style high tunnels, PlantPeddler sells finished plants to retailers and young plants to growers.

Cresco, Iowa

ABOUT THE PROJECT

UbiGro (600 nm, orange) Inner quantum dot greenhouse films were installed in Quonsets (dimensions 21m x 5m, polyethylene cover) at PlantPeddler in Cresco, Iowa. Two thousand square feet of UbiGro were installed horizontally, and 1,000 ft2 were installed vertically to increase crop yield and benefit from advanced agricultural techniques. Identical Quonsets without UbiGro served as the control group, shown in the picture below. Quonsets were identical in humidity, air temperature and movement, fertigation, and pest management. Plant material was also identical: cultivar, planting density, and growth stage, ensuring that any increase in plant growth rate could be accurately measured. This setup also highlights the benefit of crop rotation in maintaining soil health and productivity.

PlantPeddler traditionally grows their kale, pepper, and celosia for 11 weeks. Under UbiGro, the plants were ready to be harvested after 9.5 weeks. As a result, plants could be delivered to customers 10 days earlier than their traditional shipment dates. 

UbiGro

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

Control

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

Faster Growth Rate

Plants under UbiGro exhibited faster growth rates, leading to an increase in crop yield. As a result, all crops tested were able to be harvested 10 days earlier. After being germinated in the same environment, kale was transplanted and moved into UbiGro and controlled by Quonsets, initiating the light treatments. Kale was photographed every 3 weeks after transplant (WAT), shown in the visual below. At 6 weeks post-transplant, the plant canopy under UbiGro was noticeably fuller, with less open space between plants. By 9 weeks, the plants under UbiGro exhibited leaves with more texture and color, suggesting they emerged from the meristem earlier than leaves on control plants, giving them a longer period of time to develop. This increased plant growth rate is one of the significant benefits of UbiGro’s lighting technology. The second set of photos below shows side-by-side comparisons of various species grown under the UbiGro and control light treatments; listed from top to bottom: coleus and new guinea impatiens, ornamental pepper, alternanthera, and plectranthus. Plants in both treatments were grown for the same duration, demonstrating the benefit of crop rotation and optimized lighting.

Ubigo

Control

WAT

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

3

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

6

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

9

UbiGro

Control

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

Greater Canopy Coverage

Even when plants were at a young growth stage, the average surface area of the crop
canopy was greater under UbiGro, suggesting UbiGro increases leaf expansion and/or number of leaves. Pictured below is an early growth stage celosia plant canopy displaying increased surface area compared to control plants. The crop canopy covering a larger surface area increases radiation interception, fueling photosynthesis, and at least partially explaining the faster growth rates. In 2024, more advanced analyses at PlantPeddler will compare treatments based on data obtained
from image – based phenotyping of leaf area and pigmentation. Observationally, not only were plant shoots larger under UbiGro, but also root systems. Shown in the second visual below, roots appeared to be thicker and have more hairs, which would allow for more nutrients and water to be taken up from the substrate. Anecdotally, roots were also whiter in color: a general indicator of better root – zone health.

UbiGro

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

Control

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

Earlier Flowering

Under UbiGro, faster growth rates culminated in earlier flowering. Considering the larger canopy, plants under UbiGro likely photosynthesized enough carbohydrates
to transition from vegetative to reproductive growth earlier than control plants.
Shown in the visual below, pepper was transplanted and moved into UbiGro and control Quonsets, and photos were taken every 3 weeks after transplant. At 6 weeks
post – transplant, pepper under UbiGro had started to flower. The control treatment
took an additional week to start flowering.

Ubigo

Control

WAT

Vegetative

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

3

Early Flower

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

6

Full
Flower

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

9

Flowering Visual Characteristics

Not only did flowering initiate earlier under UbiGro, but visual characteristics of flowers were also improved. Based on qualitative observations by experienced growers, peppers under UbiGro had more flowers, while celosia and angelonia flowers grew taller and bigger compared to the control treatment, shown in the two figures below.

UbiGro

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

Control

Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually
Gaining An Extra Harvest Annually

UbiGro