About the USDA-ARS Ames Facility
The Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) works to develop a foundation of scientific knowledge to solve some of the nation’s most difficult agricultural problems.
The USDA-ARS station in Ames, Iowa has the largest collection of maize germplasm in the world, which they make available for national and international research. The maize collection consists of over 20,000 accessions from all over the world. Research that takes place at the facility is integral to the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize Project (GEM), a collaborative effort of the USDA-ARS, land-grant universities, and industry. The GEM aims to effectively increase the diversity of U.S. maize germplasm utilized by producers, global end-users and consumers.
“The USDA-ARS Ames facility has benefited from lower ambient temperatures, which has significantly reduced the risk of heat damage to corn. They have also implemented spectral control strategies to control flowering times.”
Researchers at the USDA-ARS Ames station were interested in finding a solution to improve greenhouse light quality and decrease the high levels of heat from their HPS fixtures. “We know that many maize accessions can be quite difficult to grow because they’ve been adapted for environments different from Iowa and are highly photoperiod sensitive.” shares Jake Holley, a LumiGrow Plant Researcher. “It’s a crop that experiences difficulties and sometimes barriers to successful germplasm regeneration due to the variable quality of sunlight through the year.”
Also with corn being such a tall crop, plants can be burnt as they grow closer to the hot HPS lights, a phenomenon known as “tassel firing” and burnout. The LumiGrow Research Team hoped that by finding a cooler solution they would improve pollen shed and subsequently improve seed yield per pollination.
The USDA-ARS team approached LumiGrow already knowledgeable about LED lights as a cooler, energy-efficient lighting alternative to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting. LumiGrow worked with USDA researchers to design a light plan and lighting strategy to help meet their breeding and production objectives. “We informed them of the benefits of LED, and were also pleased to share spectral control strategies and applicable research.”, recalled LumiGrow Lighting Specialist Mike McCoy.
Once LumiGrow LED lighting was implemented and positive results were coming in, the LumiGrow Research Team began to inform the USDA about some of the benefits of spectral control. “Flowering onset and timing were important factors for seed production that we knew we could affect with light intensity and spectrum,” recalls LumiGrow lighting specialist Mike McCoy. “Adjustable-spectrum lighting also provided an adaptable lighting strategy for USDA greenhouses growing multiple crops”. The LumiGrow product line, all of which are GSA-listed, offered a straightforward, drop-in implementation process. To date, the USDA has purchased over 1200 LumiGrow fixtures for research greenhouses and growth rooms.
LumiGrow lighting offers beneficial control for changing plant characteristics by adjusting spectral ratios. Preliminary results at the USDA Ames Facility show that red and blue light treatments can be implemented for specific differences in growth characteristics in corn. “Under blue light treatments plants flowered 3 days earlier, and plants grown under red light had thicker stocks and more vegetative growth,” explains Mike McCoy.
The Ames Research Facility has also benefitted from lower ambient temperatures which reduce the risk of heat damage. Applying LumiGrow’s easy to manage lighting solution, the USDA has also implemented a similar LumiGrow LED strategy to soybean research. The adjustable-light spectrum LEDs have also offered an energy-efficient solution that fulfills breeding and research production requirements. LumiGrow continues to be helpful in assisting the USDA with greenhouse lighting plans and lighting research.