Video: Shining a light on healthier food
Our multi-discipline research project has successfully developed a lighting system to replace the nutritional value lost when plant food is grown indoors, away from UV light.
University College Cork (UCC) has announced that the collaborative project, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, has evaluated innovative UV-LED systems in plant growth trials and is currently looking for potential partners from commercial horticulture to further develop this UV technology.
The announcement coincides with Science Week, supported by Science Foundation Ireland.
Growing horticultural crops under cover is a challenge, especially given current pressures to reliably produce high quality food locally with minimal environmental impact. This research project in UCC has now developed a lighting system that improves the nutritional value of our plant foods.
In Ireland many of our food crops are grown in glasshouses or polytunnels. This offers plants protection from adverse weather conditions, including low temperatures, and allows us to grow crops from warmer regions successfully in Ireland.
Prof. Marcel Jansen of the UCC School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences said: “However, the glass or plastic used to protect crops also changes the light that reaches the plants. The amount of light is not only lower in intensity than outside, but the type of light is also changed, with the UV part of natural sunlight filtered out”.
We are warned that UV light can cause us harm, but UV light is actually beneficial for plants. Both UVA and UVB affect plant size, and improve colour, taste, and smell, as well as nutritional qualities. As pointed out by Prof. Jansen, “sun-ripened fruits really do taste better”.
Dr Alan Morrison of the UCC School of Engineering and Architecture, who developed the technology, said: “Additional artificial lighting is already used to increase the light intensity in glasshouses, but so far these lighting systems have not considered the problem of the lack of UV. Now we have developed working LED lighting technology in the UV part of the spectrum as well.”
Prof. Jansen added: “Our research shows that plants grow better when there are natural amounts of UV light present. And importantly for the consumer, UV encourages plants to produce more vitamins, which make our salads so much healthier to eat.”
For Science Week the team released a video to explain more about the project, find it on our Video Page.
Our website: https://www.ucc.ie/en/uvleds4crops/
Video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/L-NubSzxcFc