Can you use artificial light for photosynthesis
Plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, which is a chemical reaction behind how plants grow. But can sunlight be replaced by artificial light instead? Plus can plants tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light? Let’s take a look…
Can plants tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light in 20 seconds…
Sunlight is different from artificial light as artificial light doesn’t emit as much energy in the red and blue region of the light spectrum. But all light is emitted in the form of photons which are used by plants in the photosynthesis process which combines carbon dioxide with water to create glucose and oxygen.
What is the difference between sunlight and artificial light in more detail?
As we know, natural daylight is produced by the sun. Where sunlight contains all the colours of the spectrum and is necessary for photosynthesis in plants. Whereas artificial light sources, which include incandescent light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), don’t radiate the full spectrum of colours. Using these types of artificial light could inhibit plant growth.
Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction that takes place inside a plant, producing food for the plant to survive. Carbon dioxide, water and light are all needed for photosynthesis to take place. Photosynthesis happens in the leaves of a plant.BBC Bitesize – What is photosynthesis?
However, it is possible to buy full-light-spectrum bulbs that mimic natural sunlight which is ideal for growing plants.
Can plants tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light?
In case you were wondering, whether we are talking about light from the sun, light from a torch or flash light, light coming from an LED or a fluorescent tube, they all emit energy in the form of photons.
It is these photons that a plant uses to photosynthesise carbon dioxide and water into glucose (i.e. sugar) and oxygen.
In fact the whole functioning of the Planet Earth’s ecosystem is mostly dependent upon this input of light energy from the sun in the form of photons. Even humans are dependent on the photons from sunlight. We use sunlight to generate Vitamin D. In fact new research is underway to discover how humans utilise by photons.
So in reality plants can’t actually tell the difference as such between sunlight and artificial light. But plants react differently to the varying levels of photons that are emitted from sunlight vs artificial light.
If the light that plants receive is below what they would normally require for photosynthesis, they will struggle to thrive and may end up dying. Which is no different to what it is like in nature whereby plants compete for the best spot in the sun. Those plants that are blocked by the leaves of the faster-growing plants will wither and die. Which is natures survival of the fittest in action.
If the artificial light isn’t powerful enough for the plant to grow, this will be a bit like shading the plant.
Do plants absorb all types of light?
There are two answers to this question, which is dependant on what is meant by ‘types of light‘. If you meant the type of light source: Then as the energy that is produced from all types of light is in the form of photons, it is therefore true that plants absorb all types of light. Having said that, and as explained above, not all light is equal. Or should I say, not all levels of photons is equally emitted.
Plants have evolved to use the sun’s rays to grow in the way they do. Which means that not all artificial light will have the same effect on plants. The amount of photons emitted by a small torch may not be enough for a plant to grow healthily.
But if on the other hand the question is directed at which part of the light spectrum is absorbed by plants, then this requires a slightly different answer. As we know, plant leaves are green. This green pigment is common to all photosynthetic cells. Within these cells is Chlorophyll, which is responsible for absorbing all wavelengths of visible light. This is except for light in the green spectrum. Plants reflect green light, which is why plants appear green to us.
Can plants photosynthesise with LED light?
Yes plants can photosynthesise and grow under LED lights! But it’s the LED grow lights that work best of artificial light sources. LED’s emit the widest spectrum of light, and is closest to sunlight.
When you’re considering any type of light for plant growth, it’s important to look at the power output in terms of intensity and brightness. But as already mentioned, the spectrum of light is also important. Where for example, sunlight includes the full spectrum of light including reds and blues. Which is why LED’s are a good substitute for sunlight.
The other interesting aspect to light requirements is that not all plants require the same intensity of light. This is referred to as shadow tolerance. Shadow tolerance refers to a plant’s ability to tolerate low light levels. You can imagine that plants that grow on a forest floor receive less light than the trees above them. These types of plant have evolved to function on receiving less light to photosynthesise.
With respect to your aquaponics plants, vegetables crops that will grow in light to partial shade include among others: Arugula (or rocket), beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, Chinese cabbage, corn salad, garlic, horseradish, kale, leaf lettuce, leeks, mustard and peas.
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