In controlled-environment crop production such as will be practiced at the lunar outpost and Mars base, the single most energy-demanding aspect is electric lighting for plant growth, including energy costs for energizing lamps as well as for removing excess heat. For a variety of reasons, sunlight may not be a viable option as the main source of crop lighting off-Earth and traditional electric lamps for crop lighting have numerous drawbacks for use in a space environment. A collaborative research venture between the Advanced Life Support Crops Group at Purdue University and the Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC) has led to the development of efficient, reconfigurable LED lighting technologies for crop growth in an ALSS. The light sources use printed-circuit red and blue LEDs, which are individually tunable for a range of photosynthetic photon fluxes and photomorphogenic plant responses. Initial lighting arrays have LEDs that can be energized from the bottom upward when deployed in a vertical, intracanopy configuration, allowing the illumination to be tailored for stand height throughout the cropping cycle. Preliminary testing with the planophile crop cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp, breeding line IT87D-941-1), resulted in optimizing internal reflectance of growth compartments by lining walls, floor, and a movable ceiling with white Poly film, as well as by determining optimal planting density and plant positioning. Additionally, these light strips, called "lightsicles", can be configured into an overhead plane of light engines. When intracanopy and overhead-LED-lit cowpea crop production was compared, cowpea plants grown with intracanopy lighting had much greater understory leaf retention and produced more dry biomass per kilowatt-hour of lighting energy than did overhead-lit plants. The efficiency of light capture is reduced in overhead-lit scenarios due to mutual shading of lower leaves by upper leaves in closed canopies leading to premature abscission of lower leaves. One system modification has led to lightsicles of different lengths, allowing a wider array of intracanopy lighting configurations. Another development is an adaptive system in which each light engine can be operated independently, and photodiodes can detect reflectance patterns off of leaves from flashing green LEDs, thereby indicating positions of leaves within the foliar canopy relative to any given light engine on a lightsicle. When this advanced hardware is coupled to tailored software, the reflectance can be used to auto-detect changes in plant growth and adjust the lighting accordingly. These lighting systems have been tested with cowpea, pepper (Capsicum annuum L. cv. Triton) and Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Waldmanns Green) with limited testing of other ALS candidate crop species. The versatility of these LED lighting systems will allow energy-efficient light delivery to a wide variety of crops with different growth habits, including planophile, erectophile, and rosette species. This research has been supported by NASA grants NAG5-12686 (NSCORT) and NNK05OA20C (SBIR Phase 1) and NNK06OM01C (SBIR Phase 2).
37th COSPAR Scientific Assembly
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