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Dream big: solid state/LED lighting will allow you to affect pathogen biology in ways that you never could before

Mark Rea: Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

<div>Plants and pathogens coevolved over millions of years in an environment of 24 hr cycles of natural sunlight during day, and near-complete darkness at night. By comparison, horticultural uses of electric lighting span a mere instant of evolutionary time: less than 100 yr. High Pressure Sodium (HPS) represents the most common electric lighting source used for enhanced plant growth today, but Light Emitting Diode (LED) technologies have been developed to the point where they are durable and energy efficient, albeit at a 2- to 6-fold higher purchase price. An under-exploited benefit of LEDs is their ability to be precisely controlled in terms of spectrum, amount, duration, timing, and distribution for the purpose of suppressing plant pathogens, while still providing enhanced plant growth. LEDs make possible the strategic control of the lighting environment to attack photoregulatory pathways of pathogens, and thereby disrupt pathogenesis. A number of examples will be presented, encompassing suppression of downy mildews, disruption of circadian rhythms, stimulation of inoculum release during environmentally unfavorable periods, effects of selected wavelengths on the sporulation process, and potential effects of counter-phasing of different spectra. The unique physical and electromechanical attributes of LED systems as they relate to these potential uses, their limitations, and directions for future research will be discussed.</div>

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