Innovator Spotlight: Battlefield Farms
Each year, Battlefield farms prepares for the high demand of pansy orders in early fall. To meet this demand Head Grower, Marco Verdel propagates pansy seedlings in the commercial greenhouse during the summer months, when greenhouse temperatures are consistently above 90°F/32°C. The high temperatures in the greenhouse result in a 16-18% shrink of pansy plugs (see Photo 1) with inconsistent plant quality and poor root development. This causes a dramatic decrease in transplant success and an increase in labor demand to manage inconsistent plugs. Due to these high losses, Marco and Travis decided to run trials to evaluate new cultivation practices of plugs and liners in a controlled environment under Fluence RAZRx LED grow lights.
One way to improve plant quality is to apply plant growth regulators (PGRs); however, to maintain the environmental standards they strives for, Battlefield was looking for alternative cultivation techniques to decrease the use of PGRs and associated labor. As pansies grow well under high light and low temperatures, another way to reduce plug loss and improve quality and consistency is to grow under controlled environmental conditions. This is where Battlefield turned to Fluence, and LED horticultural lighting technology.
To determine the feasibility of growing pansies in a controlled environment with LEDs, Battlefield ran a trial of five pansy cultivars with the following treatments:
The trial ran from July to August 2017 with air and soil temperature, relative humidity, and PGR inputs being monitored and recorded. To measure the results, shoot height and root fresh weight were recorded. Four particular data points stood out as a result of the trial.
Pansy plugs grown under RAZRx had the highest root fresh weight at transplant. For all five cultivars combined, the average root fresh weight of pansy plugs grown under RAZRx were significantly higher than those grown in the greenhouse with and without PGRs. The stronger root development resulted in a higher success rate during transplant.
For all five cultivars combined, the average shoot height of pansy plugs grown under RAZRx were significantly shorter than those grown in the greenhouse with and without PGRs. This resulted in more compact plugs.
Pansy plugs had 0-2% shrink under the LED RAZRx treatment as compared to 16-18% shrink in the greenhouse treatments, resulting in overall higher yields and allowing for more accurate forecasting as losses were minimized in a controlled environment.
By deploying a five-tiered vertical rack system, production of pansy plugs per square foot increased by 400% under Fluence RAZRx as compared to growing in the greenhouse. Subsequently, by propagating indoors, valuable greenhouse space was re-allocated utilized for flowering pansies.