Light treatment for plants moves closer

A researcher's plan to commercially develop his light-based treatment for crops has moved a step closer to reality.

Dr Jason Wargent, of Massey University, was among the first to apply for support from the Central Energy Trust's new Seeding Fund. The fund amounts to $500,000 pledged over three years.

Believing that we've reached the limit of what chemicals can achieve for horticulture, over the past 12 years Wargent has researched the effect of various kinds of light on plants.

Just as all plants need light to grow, some kinds of light generate specific benefits.

He draws a parallel between his technology and the vaccination of children. Some of these recipes encourage disease or pest resistance, whereas others might extend a plant's shelf life. "It gets them ready for those stresses before they arrive."

Wargent has found that plants need different light recipes at different stages of development - "the right light at the right time". Even the taste of crops can be altered, he says.

Wargent sees a key use of the technology as increasing production density: more, better-quality crops grown in smaller areas. He's investigating "vertical farming" - essentially farming in a multi-storey building - which is attracting interest in high-population areas such as Europe and east Asia.

- Stratford Press

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