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Speed Breeding Project John Innes Centre

Accelerating Harvest Cycles

Application: Greenhouse, Indoor, Research & AgTech

Crop type: Cereals, wheat

The project has been an immense success and the team was able to achieve wheat generation from seed-to-seed in just 8-9 weeks, considerably faster than the usual four to five months under sodium-vapour lamps with 16 hours of light or in a naturally lit spring/summer glasshouse .

Brande Wulff, Project Leader Crop Genetics

To meet the challenge of feeding a growing population, breeders and scientists are continuously looking for ways to increase genetic gain in crop breeding. The John Innes Centre, a renowned, independent, international Centre of excellence in plant science, genetics and microbiology in the UK; is using speed breading to accelerate research on wheat and a wide range of crops. Speed breeding allows researchers to shorten the breeding cycle and accelerate research studies through rapid generation advancement.

The nature of plant and microbial science research requires sites such as the John Innes Centre to maintain controlled growing environments which often consume lots of energy. The research at John Innes Centre is dependent on precise light conditions and temperature controls to aid plant growth year-round. This prompted John Innes Centre to turn to LED lighting after an extensive research, leading to the implementation of Heliospectra’s ELIXIA LED Grow Lights. ELIXIA allows the John Innes Centre to fully control and adjust the light spectrum and intensity, enabling them to set flexible light strategies across the plant production cycle. Furthermore, as a sustainable option LEDs reduce energy consumption to save money, reduce pollution and minimize environmental footprint.

By upgrading traditional high-pressure sodium (HPS) fluorescent tube lamps to Heliospectra’s ELIXIA LED grow lights and HelioCORE™ light control software, John Innes Centre was able to apply a 22-hour photoperiod and controlled temperature regime in their Speed Breeding project. This led to an accelerated seed-to-seed generation time of just 9 weeks and improved the crop quality in their wheat research. While results are highly dependent on crop species and can vary significantly between cultivars, the test shows it should be possible to produce up to 6 generations of spring wheat and barley and up to 4 and 4.5 generations of canola and chickpea in a single year.

Midway through the project, the research team also recognized significant cost reductions and improvements in facility operations achieved with the LED lighting technology. The upgrade to Heliospectra’s Elixia resulted in a 15% reduction in energy consumption. The energy reduction was particularly impressive considering the light intensive nature of the Speed Breeding project.

This is a ground-breaking project in that we have successfully demonstrated we can grow crops under LED lights in a glasshouse whilst achieving significant energy savings.

Jeremy Carter, NBI Energy Manager

Replacing fluorescent bulbs with LED Grow Lights also led to less heat emission meaning less electricity is used by the air conditioning units to cool the controlled environment. Combining less heat emission with the fact that LEDs use less energy to provide the same amount of light meant John Innes Centre could save electricity in two different ways at the same time.

John Innes Centre will continue to upgrade the lighting in the remaining glasshouses, rooms and cabinets to LEDs with Heliospectra’s HelioCORE control software as they estimate 1,200 fluorescent tubes still need to be replaced.

HelioCORE control gives researchers and growers the ability to pre-set or schedule light strategies and easily replicate them across the plant growth cycle to ensure consistent light quality and results year-round with automated, dynamic light response.