To light or not to light – that is the question

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To light or not to light – that is the question

In Next Generation Growing (NGG) we’re always talking about balances: water balance, fruit balance, energy balance, etc etc. And in sweet pepper production we’re constantly monitoring light input with the aim of keeping the plants in balance. Wouldn’t it be great if we could shine the lights on them for a week every now and again. Just to keep setting going a bit longer or to get your peppers to market a bit earlier than your competitors. But when we do a cost/benefit analysis, lighting seems to lose out.

When it comes to selling our produce, we always aim for consistency for our customers. After all, we want to be able to supply them with the same number of trailers of sweet peppers of uniform quality every day so they can keep their supermarket shelves full. Wouldn’t it be great to get slightly more fruit weight sometimes. To fill up those packs properly, or to be able to pick those last few fruits, with the help of a little light. Fruiting vegetables are expensive in winter but you can’t install lights just for that.

In winter we’re also looking for ways to make the best use of our staff. The reality is that at the moment we really have to motivate our casual staff to come back again after the winter dip. Every year it’s a challenge to get them back in the greenhouse refreshed and at the right time and to get them to work with the same mindset as they had when we finished three months earlier. But you can’t switch your lights on just for that either.

As members of the circular heat networks in our growing area, we all want as much heat as we can get in the dark months. Everyone has plenty of heat in summer but not enough in winter. Waste processing plants aren’t about to start saving up their waste so that they can burn it in the winter and supply the heat to growers. But anyhow, the situation where you have the same demand for heat all year round helped by extra light from above (lighting) in the dark periods is still a long way off.

So why don’t we take another look at the options and switch to lighting? Not just for sweet peppers but for other fruiting vegetables and ornamentals as well.

Maikel van den Berg
Sweet pepper grower in The Netherlands

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