How Can Red and Infrared Light Impact Your Crop?

Even though you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. In this case, we’re talking about infrared light, the wavelengths found on the far end of the spectrum (>700nm). It’s invisible to the human eye but can be felt as heat. And studies show that plants love it.

If you’ve ever used an infrared camera, you’ll know that everything emits infrared radiation from its surface, but living things tend to emit more than non-living objects. That’s why humans appear red, orange and yellow on an infrared camera, while countertops or chairs appear indigo. It’s the same in your grow: plants will often appear more yellow, while soil appears blue.

The Emerson Effect

Infrared light has been studied for its effects on plant biology (we’ve covered some of the specifics of photomorphogenesis on our blog). In 1957, Robert Emerson discovered that light on the far end of the spectrum, infrared light, boosted photosynthesis when combined with other wavelengths. Emerson’s primary observations included:

  • There are two chemical procedures that contribute to photosynthesis, known as PS1 and PS2.
  • These processes are hastened, and are more efficient, when the plant is exposed to blue and red light in combination with far-red and infrared light. On the other hand, the processes are stalled when these wavelengths are absent.
  • The plant protein phytochrome absorbs red, far-red and infrared wavelengths; this protein is responsible for regulating flowering.

Modern cannabis professionals have taken Emerson’s studies and applied it to their own grow, finding that infrared light can also result in strong stem growth, proper node placement and boosting flower yields. Current research has built on Emerson’s results, fine-tuning our understanding of these complex plant processes. Today, cultivators understand that there are two types of phytochrome (the plant protein that regulates flowering). There’s Pr, which is sensitive to red light (660nm). The other type, Pfr, is sensitive to infrared light, (730nm). When Pfr is exposed to infrared light, it converts into Pr. Since we know phytochrome plays a pivotal role in flowering, we can assume Pf and Pfr receptors could be vital to releasing a hormone called florigen, which triggers flowering. However, the scientific research into this hormone is still in its infancy.

Too much infrared light can be detrimental to plants, but when it’s combined with other wavelengths and used in moderation, it can deliver serious benefits.

A Modern Application  

Applying the Emerson Effect to your own crop can increase cannabis yields and boost plant health. Using red and infrared light can improve the production and quality of buds, resulting in top-notch product. Cultivators can also use these wavelengths to shorten the growing cycle, resulting in bigger yields in less time. In today’s competitive market, truly any grower could benefit.

Not all LEDs incorporate infrared light, so look for ones that utilize an advanced spectrum, such as our Monarch Series. With wireless control, industrial-grade design and build, Monarch is the ideal solution for growers seeking big yields and high quality.