The mentality of more is always better does not apply to everything. This approach is kind of widespread in the cannabis industry, and while it is appropriate with regards to some elements of indoor cultivation, there are other aspects where overkilling it is definitely not beneficial. One of these is the lighting footprint.
“There have been and there still are a lot of people that assume that more is always better,” says Michael Chapelle, former director of cultivation at Cannabiotix, and owner and founder of CannaBloom Consulting. “The problem with this approach is that too much light does not necessarily imply a bigger yield.”
The consequence of overkilling
The effects of overshooting with the lighting footprint reverberate not only on the financial side but also on the cultivation side. “On the one hand, you are going to overstress the HVAC, , and the electricity bill eventually ends up being twice as expensive,” Michael explains. “From that point on, the HVAC is running way too much to cool the room down, and you are battling with the equipment to keep working by doing twice as much as they normally do. Additionally, it’s going to be exceptionally tough to keep the room dialed in with the atmosphere.
The lighting footprint is an aspect of cultivation Michael has been focusing a lot on with growers, recently. “It is critical to find the right balance to not overkill, but also not to create an undersaturated canopy. We use certain measuring tools such as PAR readings along with Lux measurements to understand the lights intensity” he adds.
How to avoid that
“So, first of all, it is important to have the formula to understand the perfect saturation so flowers can produce all the plethora of cannabinoids, terpenes, and so on,” Michael explains. “If a grower doesn’t have that, they can easily make mistakes with the setup of the lights. For instance, lights are also placed too far apart from each other, making the light distribution uneven. But also, usually, there’s no way to lower or raising the lighting system, so either you don’t get enough lighting, or the plants get roasted.”
Of course, Michael is specifically talking about HPS lighting. “I still do believe that HPS produces the best flowers in certain conditions, but this doesn’t mean that LED lights are not as good. Given the same footprint, there are different things to take into account if one is using HPS or LED. With LEDs is easier to not burn your plants, as they produce way less heat than HPS. Yet, you have to take into consideration the light spectrum too, as a grower always needs to customize it for each stage of the plant. Thus, there is a whole different lighting footprint when it comes to that.”
Aspects to consider
It is then crucial to know a number of things when it comes to setting up the HPS lighting system. “Ceiling height is a critical element for the light choice,” Michael explains. “If your ceiling is too low, say only 8 feet, then a double-ended thousand watts HPS might be the wrong choice: when space is that limited, plants might end up getting too close to the light, and growers would have to deal with burnt tips, and overheating plants. That is why it is vital that growers rely on a consultant to get advice on what lighting a grower should be using in the building. Thus, the first step is to consider the ceiling height: if the ceiling is above 10 feet high, then it is possible to use HPS lights. That’s why for me 10 feet high ceiling is the minimum requirement to install HPS. In this way, it is possible to have lighting rails, to raise and lower the lamps, so to achieve the optimal PAR levels during all stages of the plants life cycle.”
And thus, Michael’s advice to cannabis growers is to be efficient even when it comes to planning the cultivation strategy, especially when it comes to such an important part of the whole, namely lighting.
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