Most people have not heard of Paul Gray, but his contributions to the cannabis industry are something most of us can cheer about.
It all started when he was growing the infamous green crack. He wanted to figure out a way to make the already potent strain even stronger. After plenty of very important research, Gray discovered that light-emitting diode lamps could do the trick. His green crack plant, which is rumored to have earned its name from weed aficionado Snoop Dogg, was now even stronger.
No Longer an Experiment
Working with a company called Illumitex,gr Gray was able to help develop LED lighting especially for the cannabis industry. Gone are the days of secret indoor grows. Nowadays, marijuana growing is big business, and it will continue to grow as more states legalize both medical and recreational marijuana. The LED lighting industry has matured as well – lights are becoming affordable for most growers, making stronger, more potent grows a possibility for most people.
Why Growers Love LEDs
There are two main benefits to using LEDs for marijuana growing. One is the fact that their wavelengths can be fine-tuned to match the specific needs of a plant at different stages of its growth. These wavelengths are apparent by the various shades given off from the lamps. (For example, you may see some blue mixed in with red or magenta.)
The other benefit is the significant reduction of energy use. LEDs use up to 60% less energy than traditional bulbs, making indoor marijuana farms easier to maintain. In the past, many indoor growing operations were located and shut down simply because of their high energy usage! Not only do LEDs make it easier for illegal farms to survive, but they also save legal grow operations a lot of money (and benefit the environment).
The Science Behind Lights
When you grow marijuana, the Internet is often your largest source of information. Although legalization is growing, there aren’t many people out there with reliable data. Prior to LEDs, the Internet would tell you that high-intensity discharge lamps are the ideal lights for growing marijuana. These powerful lamps are the same types that are used to light up stadiums. Growers would use metal halides for the early vegetative stage and save the high-pressure sodium lights for the flowering phase.
However, it was the US government that sparked the idea that there could be an easier solution. During the 1990s’, the space program NASA, began experimenting with ways to grow food in space. They wanted to use LEDs. Their botanists knew plants needed blue and red lights for photosynthesis, but unfortunately, at that time, only red was readily available. Plants could grow with red lights only, but they were not thriving.
So how did this research relate to traditional knowledge about growing lights? The metal halides used for the early vegetative stage had blue tints – and they seemed to cause the plant to grow leaves. The high-pressure sodium lamps, on the other hand, have an orange tint. Their red base appeared to help the plants flower. Once dependable blue LEDs were produced, growers were able to use LEDs for the entire growing cycle and even produce healthier plants with higher potency. The invention of blue LEDs was not just a big deal for the cannabis industry, it even won its inventor a Nobel prize.
LEDs can now be used for the entire growing cycle, but they work differently with different strains, so keep that in mind when trying them out.
Lowered Energy Costs
Traditional high-pressure sodium and metal halide lights spend much of their energy creating heat instead of light. This makes them very inefficient. It also makes cooling a grow room a necessary evil. Since LEDs do not produce as much heat, growers do not need to spend extra money cooling off their grow rooms.
Not Just for Weed
LEDs are excellent for growing marijuana, but they can also be used for any type of indoor grow. In fact, once the technology was developed, NASA astronauts successfully grew their own veggies using LED grow lights. Maybe one day they’ll grow weed in space as well.
LED’s will never replace sunlight, but as agriculture moves more indoors, and humans experiment with space travel, they will become increasingly more indispensable. In the meanwhile, if you are looking to grow weed indoors, you should definitely consider growing with LEDs.
by Robert Bergman, founder of ilovegrowingmarijuana.com. Robert has been growing cannabis passionately for over 20 years and shares these insights to educate growers avoid mistakes and to fully capitalize on a bud’s potential.