By Qingwu (William) Meng and Joshua Craver

GrowerTalks originally published this article in July, 2016.

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Picture 1. Dr. Kevin Folta from the University of Florida delivered a keynote presentation on the role of light in plant growth, development, and metabolism.

The International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) 8th International Symposium on Light in Horticulture was held from May 22 to 26 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. Convened by Drs. Erik Runkle and Roberto Lopez from Michigan State University, it attracted over 250 participants from 25 countries around the world. This symposium is generally held every four years and provides an opportunity for researchers and industry professionals to share their knowledge, findings, and ideas on the subject of light in horticultural systems.

The welcome reception was held at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (also the site of the red carpet gala in the recent Batman vs. Superman movie). During the 5-day symposium, a diverse group of faculty, graduate students, and industry professionals delivered a total of 52 oral and 78 poster presentations. The scientific program encompassed themes most relevant to current horticultural lighting research, such as light quality and optimization, applications of ultraviolet light, lighting technologies, phytonutrients and growth control, as well as supplemental, sole-source, and photoperiodic lighting. In addition, panel discussions following each oral session stimulated exchange of ideas, generated interesting questions, and shed light on future research directions.

Four invited speakers delivered some of the most engaging oral presentations. Dr. Bruce Bugbee from Utah State University discussed future approaches to better understanding the effects of light quality on plant growth and development. Dr. Jason Wargent from Massey University, New Zealand talked about lighting applications outside of the visible spectrum, presenting many novel uses for ultraviolet LEDs in horticulture. Similarly, Dr. Kevin Folta from the University of Florida discussed controlling the spectrum to manipulate plant responses such as growth, flavor, and pigmentation (Picture 1). Lastly, Dr. Wim van Ieperen from Wageningen University, the Netherlands argued that manipulating the lighting spectrum might expose plants to unnatural lighting conditions, resulting in unexpected negative effects. These topics, as well as the other presentations, stimulated conversation and debate as lighting technologies and applications continue to develop and become implemented in the horticulture industry.

35 graduate students presented in both oral and poster sessions. A highlight was the graduate student poster competition sponsored by DuPont Pioneer. Each participant in this competition delivered a short summary and answered questions from a panel of judges representing different areas of expertise (Picture 2). The winners were Shuyang Zhen from University of Georgia (1st), Qingwu (William) Meng from Michigan State University (2nd), and Garrett Owen from Purdue University (3rd).

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Picture 2. A panel of judges evaluated graduate students’ posters while other participants engaged in lively discussions during poster sessions.

Amongst the faculty and students were also a variety of industry sponsors and speakers. This symposium would certainly not have been possible without industry support, with over 25 companies and organizations contributing to both sponsor and participate in the conference. Some of the highlighted industry events were the welcome reception sponsored by Philips, the symposium banquet dinner sponsored by Osram Opto Semiconductors, and the post-conference tours sponsored by Illumitex. Following the scientific program, two bus tours in west and southeast Michigan were a welcome diversion from the conference venue. Participants visited leading floriculture operations such as Mast Young Plants, Henry Mast Greenhouse, and Four Star Greenhouse, as well as local sites of interest such as Fredrick Meijer Gardens, Founders Brewing Company, and Ford Rouge Factory.

In the closing session, Dr. Silke Hemming, Chair of the ISHS Workgroup Light in Horticulture, presented the convenor awards to Drs. Erik Runkle and Roberto Lopez to recognize their excellent work in organizing a successful symposium. The symposium proceedings have already been published as the ISHS Acta Horticulturae vol. 1134, VIII International Symposium on Light in Horticulture. More information on the symposium, including a link to the proceedings, is available online.

About the authors: Qingwu (William) Meng and Joshua Craver are Ph.D. students at Michigan State University and Purdue University, respectively.

8th International Symposium on Light in Horticulture