Figure 1: Photosynthetic light response curves
Plants and people perceive light very differently from one another. Humans and many other animals use something called photopic vision in well-lit conditions to perceive color and light. Lumens are a unit of measurement based on a model of human eye sensitivity in well-lit conditions, which is why the model is called the photopic response curve (Figure 1). As you can see, the photopic response curve is bell shaped and shows how humans are much more sensitive to green light, than blue or red light. LUX, and foot candle meters measure the intensity of light (using lumens) for commercial and residential lighting applications, with the only difference between the two being the unit of area they are measured over (LUX uses lumen/m2 and foot candle uses lumen/ft2).Using LUX or foot candle meters to measure the light intensity of horticulture lighting systems will give you varying measurements depending on the spectrum of the light source, even if you are measuring the same intensity of PAR.The fundamental problem with using LUX or foot candle meters when measuring the light intensity of horticulture lighting systems is the underrepresentation of blue (400 – 500 nm) and red (600 – 700 nm) light in the visible spectrum. Humans may not be efficient at perceiving light in these regions, but plants are highly efficient at using red and blue light to drive photosynthesis. This is why lumens, LUX, and foot candles should never be used as metrics for horticulture lighting.
PAR is photosynthetic active radiation. PAR light is the wavelengths of light within the visible range of 400 to 700 nanometers (nm) which drive photosynthesis (Figure 1). PAR is a much used (and often misused) term related to horticulture lighting. PAR is NOT a measurement or “metric” like feet, inches or kilos. Rather, it defines the type of light needed to support photosynthesis. The amount and spectral light quality of PAR light are the important metrics to focus on. (To find out more about spectral light quality click here). Quantum sensors are the primary instrument used to quantify the light intensity of horticulture lighting systems. These sensors work by using an optical filter to create a uniform sensitivity to PAR light (Figure 1), and can be used in combination with a light meter to measure instantaneous light intensity or a data logger to measure cumulative light intensity.
- How much PAR the fixture produces (measured as Photosynthetic Photon Flux)?
- How much instantaneous PAR from the fixture is available to plants (measured as Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density)?
- How much energy is used by the fixture to make PAR available to your plants (measured as Photon Efficiency).
PPFD is photosynthetic photon flux density. PPFD measures the amount of PAR that actually arrives at the plant, or as a scientist might say: “the number of photosynthetically active photons that fall on a given surface each second”. PPFD is a ‘spot’ measurement of a specific location on your plant canopy, and it is measured in micromoles per square meter per second (μmol/m2/s). If you want to find out the true light intensity of a lamp over a designated growing area (e.g. 4’ x 4’), it is important that the average of several PPFD measurements at a defined height are taken. Lighting companies that only publish the PPFD at the center point of a coverage area grossly overestimate the true light intensity of a fixture. A single measurement does not tell you much, since horticulture lights are generally brightest in the center, with light levels decreasing as measurements are taken towards the edges of the coverage area. (Caveat Emptor: Lighting manufacturers can easily manipulate PPFD data. To ensure you are getting actual PPFD values over a defined growing area, the following needs to be published by the manufacturer: measurement distance from light source (vertical and horizontal), number of measurements included in the average, and the min/max ratio). Fluence always publishes the average PPFD over a defined growing area at a recommended mounting height for all of our lighting systems.
Figure 2: PPFD measurements 3 x S4W @ 1,44m2 / 15.5ft2
• Power Consumption 420W
• PPF Light Engine: 1218µmol/s
• PPF System: 1152µmol/s
Conditions of measurement
• Distance to sensor: 30cm / 11.8 in
• Environment: HOMEbox Ambient Q120 (120 x 120cm / 47.2 x 47.2 in)
• Measure grid: 10cm / 3.9 in
Ø PPF: 528µmol/m2/s
Photon Efficiency refers to how efficient a horticulture lighting system is at converting electrical energy into photons of PAR. Many horticulture lighting manufacturers use total electrical watts or watts per square foot as a metric to describe light intensity. However, these metrics really don’t tell you anything since watts are a measurement describing electrical input, not light output. If the PPF of the light is known along with the input wattage, you can calculate how efficient a horticulture lighting system is at converting electrical energy into PAR. As a reminder, the unit for PPF is μmol/s, and the unit to measure watts is Joule per second (J/s), therefore, the seconds in the numerator and denominator cancel out, and the unit becomes µmol/J. The higher this number is, the more efficient a lighting system is at converting electrical energy into photons of PAR.
Figure 3: PAR Intensity Guide, Source: MIGRO
Photosynthetic response of Cannabis sativa L. to variations in photosynthetic photon flux densities, temperature and CO2 conditions
Effect of different photosynthetic photon flux densities (0, 500, 1000, 1500 and 2000 μmol m(-2)s(-1)), temperatures (20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 °C) and CO2 concentrations (250, 350, 450, 550, 650 and 750 μmol mol(-1)) on gas and water vapour exchange characteristics of Cannabis sativa L. were studied to determine the suitable and efficient environmental conditions for its indoor mass cultivation for pharmaceutical uses. The rate of photosynthesis (PN) and water use efficiency (WUE) of Cannabis sativa increased with photosynthetic photon flux densities (PPFD) at the lower temperatures (20-25 °C). At 30 °C, PN and WUE increased only up to 1500 μmol m(-2)s(-1) PPFD and decreased at higher light levels. The maximum rate of photosynthesis (PN max) was observed at 30 °C and under 1500 μmol m(-2)s(-1) PPFD. The rate of transpiration (E) responded positively to increased PPFD and temperature up to the highest levels tested (2000 μmol m(-2)s(-1) and 40 °C). Similar to E, leaf stomatal conductance (gs) also increased with PPFD irrespective of temperature. However, gs increased with temperature up to 30 °C only. Temperature above 30 °C had an adverse effect on gs in this species. Overall, high temperature and high PPFD showed an adverse effect on PN and WUE. A continuous decrease in intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci) and therefore, in the ratio of intercellular CO2 to ambient CO2 concentration (Ci/Ca) was observed with the increase in temperature and PPFD. However, the decrease was less pronounced at light intensities above 1500 μmol m(-2)s(-1). In view of these results, temperature and light optima for photosynthesis was concluded to be at 25-30 °C and ∼1500 μmol m(-2)s(-1) respectively. Furthermore, plants were also exposed to different concentrations of CO2 (250, 350, 450, 550, 650 and 750 μmol mol(-1)) under optimum PPFD and temperature conditions to assess their photosynthetic response. Rate of photosynthesis, WUE and Ci decreased by 50 %, 53 % and 10 % respectively, and Ci/Ca, E and gs increased by 25 %, 7 % and 3 % respectively when measurements were made at 250 μmol mol-1 as compared to ambient CO2 (350 μmol mol(-1)) level. Elevated CO2 concentration (750 μmol mol(-1)) suppressed E and gs ∼ 29% and 42% respectively, and stimulated PN, WUE and Ci by 50 %, 111 % and 115 % respectively as compared to ambient CO2 concentration. The study reveals that this species can be efficiently cultivated in the range of 25 to 30 °C and ∼1500 μmol m(-2)s(-1) PPFD. Furthermore, higher PN, WUE and nearly constant Ci/Ca ratio under elevated CO2 concentrations in C. sativa, reflects its potential for better survival, growth and productivity in drier and CO2 rich environment.
Source: Chandra S1, Lata H, Khan IA, Elsohly MA, Physiol Mol Biol Plants. 2008 Oct;14(4):299-306. doi: 10.1007/s12298-008-0027-x. Epub 2009 Feb 26
So for Cannabis, bottom threshold for optimal growth and photosynthesis is a DLI of 22 would be:
24/0 schedule: 254.6 micromoles/m2/s-1
18/6 schedule: 339.5 micromoles/m2/s-1
12/12 schedule: 509.25 micromoles/m2/s-1
For Cannabis, the Top threshold for optimal growth and photosynthesis is a DLI of 65 moles per day.
*extremely important notice, only go up to these amounts if you are using supplemental CO2, do not go this high if you are not using supplemental CO2 as you will actually slow down photosynthesis and waste energy.
24/0 schedule: 752.31 micromoles/m2/s-1
18/6 schedule: 1003.08 micromoles/m2/s-1
12/12 schedule: 1504.6 micromoles/m2/s-1
The generally accepted guidelines for artificial light PPFD in flowering are this:
in a 12/12
PPFD of at least 510 micromoles/m2/s-1 for the low end of optimal intensity
PPFD of at least 800-1100 micromoles/m2/s-1 for perfect optimal lighting without additional CO2.
PPFD of at least 800-1500 micromoles/m2/s-1 for perfect optimal lighting WITH additional CO2.
Source: Fluence BML / SANlight