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Why Light Cycles Matter For Indoor Cannabis Production

For commercial growers, the ability to control all the conditions that lead to a perfect crop is a very attractive argument in favor of indoor cultivation. This leads to the question: Why are there so many different grow methods and so many varying opinions about light cycles?

Indoor vegetable cultivation can sometimes be tricky when it comes to knowing how much light is enough for what you’re growing. Before the advent of such things, we had just one thing to go by: the sun. Certain crops performed better during the shorter days of late spring and early fall, and some preferred the long, sunshine-filled days of summer.

These days, we are fortunate enough to be able to simulate practically any weather or climate condition indoors. Nature is unpredictable to the point where it’s not always a given that you will get those “long days of sunshine,” which may or may not affect the outcome of the crop.

For commercial growers, the ability to control all the conditions that lead to a perfect crop is a very attractive argument in favor of indoor cultivation. This is probably no truer in any commercial growing market than it is with cannabis. This leads to the question: Why are there so many different grow methods and so many varying opinions about light cycles? Why do they matter?

Light Cycles During the Vegetative Stage

If left up to nature, cannabis plants, with the exception of ruderalis, begin to flower between late summer and early fall. Flowering is triggered by the loss of daylight hours via photoperiodism. Female plants respond by shifting their focus away from vegetating and toward producing flowers that will attract pollen and produce seeds.

Indoor growers can manipulate this process simply by increasing or decreasing the hours of light and darkness, stimulating a plant’s photoperiod whenever desired. It is possible to keep a plant in its vegetative state indefinitely by simply leaving the lights on all the time (or at least for a majority of hours during the day). The most popular light cycle during the vegetative stage is 18/6, or 18 hours of light per day.

Light Cycles During Flowering Stage

The grower can manipulate when flowering begins by simply amping up the darkness and decreasing light. For most strains, a 12/12 light cycle will trigger flowering since the increased amount of uninterrupted darkness tells the plant that fall is coming.

13 is the lucky number for maintaining vegetation. Drop below 13 hours of consistent light and the plants will start to flower. It’s in their DNA. This is true of indicas and sativas, regular and feminized plants. The only exception lies with automatics, since ruderalis flowers are on a schedule that is based on developmental conditions as opposed to light.

Why Maintain Vegetation?

Mature plants are healthy plants. They are strong enough to produce quality flowers and, depending on the strain and its genetics, will have a far better time dealing with the weight of the buds if allowed to fully mature before initiating flowering. They won’t keep growing indefinitely under an 18/6 or 24/0 cycle, but a little patience on the grower’s part will maximize yield and, of course, profit.

Why Use LED Lights?

Simply put, you won’t find grow lights that light more evenly or efficiently. It’s not just about shining light on the plant; you need to light the entire plant and penetrate the light into the canopy if you want an eventual harvest that is of consistent quality and high yields.

LEDs use less power than traditional HPS lights, decreasing the risk of power loss or power failure that can lead to an interruption of the light cycle. All it takes is one unintentionally dark day and nature will have her way with your plants. That said, always maintain a backup plan and be prepared to switch to generator power if a power outage occurs.

LEDs also generate substantially less heat than HPS lights, reducing the impact on your HVAC system and allowing you to more precisely control your grow environment.

Finally, LEDs have a grow light spectrum that is optimized for plants. The best LED grow lights, like Heliospectra’s LX60 Series, concentrate the light spectrum into a combination of Blue, White, Red, and Far-Red colors to deliver maximum PAR (photosynthetic active radiation) light output for healthy, high yield plant growth.

Contact us today to find out how smart LED lighting can affect your bottom line and imropove your yield.