Although specific light attributes, such as color and fluence rate, influence plant growth and development, researchers generally cannot control the fine spectral conditions of artificial plant-growth environments. Plant growth chambers are typically outfitted with fluorescent and/or incandescent fixtures that provide a general spectrum that is accommodating to the human eye and not necessarily supportive to plant development. Many studies over the last several decades, primarily in Arabidopsis thaliana, have clearly shown that variation in light quantity, quality and photoperiod can be manipulated to affect growth and control developmental transitions. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) has been used for decades to test plant responses to narrow-bandwidth light. LEDs are particularly well suited for plant growth chambers, as they have an extraordinary life (about 100,000 hours), require little maintenance, and use negligible energy. These factors render LED-based light strategies particularly appropriate for space-biology as well as terrestrial applications. However, there is a need for a versatile and inexpensive LED array platform where individual wavebands can be specifically tuned to produce a series of light combinations consisting of various quantities and qualities of individual wavelengths. Two plans are presented in this report.
In this technical report we describe the practical construction of tunable red-green-blue LED arrays to support research in plant growth and development. Two light fixture designs and corresponding circuitry are presented. The first is well suited for a laboratory environment for use in a finite area with small plants, such as Arabidopsis. The second is expandable and appropriate for growth chambers. The application of these arrays to early plant developmental studies has been validated with assays of hypocotyl growth inhibition/promotion and phototropic curvature in Arabidopsis seedlings.
The presentation of these proven plans for LED array construction allows the teacher, researcher or electronics aficionado a means to inexpensively build efficient, adjustable lighting modules for plant research. These simple and effective designs permit the construction of useful tools by programs short on electronics expertise. These arrays represent a means to modulate precise quality and quantity in experimental settings to test the effect of specific light combinations in regulating plant growth, development and plant-product yield.