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Get Lit: CMH and LED Grow Lights Lead the Way for Growers

Jan 25, 2018


Now that 30 states have legalized marijuana in one form or another, the United States will most likely see a surge in personal and commercial grow areas across the country. Not only are recreational users allowed to grow their own stash in some states, cannabis cultivation companies are investing in their own grow facilities. MariMed Inc recently purchased an industrial space in New Bedford, Mass. to cultivate and dispense their own strains of medical marijuana.

The more grow facilities that pop up, the more investors and growers are both asking – how can we find more affordable ways to grow marijuana? 

Big Buds Magazine recently published a 2018 trend report on the cannabis industry and found that many industry leaders are in the midst of conducting their own research into growing with more efficiency. More specifically, the industry is looking into new lighting technologies that are more efficient and less expensive. Both LED grow lights and the ceramic metal halide (CMH) lighting alternatives are two of the biggest lighting trends to keep an eye on.

Why are growers looking for new lights? 

Any high school science class will tell you that light is necessary for photosynthesis. Plants convert light from the sun (or grow lights in indoor facilities) into the energy needed to produce fruits, vegetables or, in this case, flowers rich in the cannabinoids responsible for marijuana’s medicinal and psychoactive properties. 

But to get photosynthesis just right for sensitive marijuana plants, traditional grow lights can and will burn through a lot of energy. This can quickly rack up the monthly electricity bill of any grow operation. On average, growers are likely to spend $1500 per year on a single grow light, and they’re replacing lights after every four yields. That’s why the industry is turning to CMH and LED lighting to relieve the overhead costs.

CMH and LED lights both offer a more efficient and cost-effective way to grow marijuana indoors. More importantly, these grow lights create the kind of light spectrum plants like to absorb. For the marijuana plant, the light spectrum these grow lights emit is a very sensitive matter.

So which is better?

LED Lights vs. CMH Lights 

According to research completed by LED grow light company Heliospectra, some plants grow very well with a blue light proportion as low as 5%. This is not the case for cannabis. While many plants respond well to infrared or far-red light, such as basil and mustard, marijuana prefers a bluer spectrum of light during early vegetation

LED grow lights are budding with newfound popularity because growers are learning to manipulate the LED light spectrum. Growers can now create custom-designed spectrums with LED that use the ideal ratio of blue to red light needed to yield lush and potent marijuana flowers. And when growers can control the light spectrum, they can grow better plants with less energy.

LED lights also offer better overhead heat coverage for indoor growth. Growers need an even canopy to grow marijuana properly, and LED reduces the risk of hot spots and dead zones in the cannabis canopy.

On the other hand, the spectrum of CMH grow lights cannot be customized. Nearly half of the light they produce is green and yellow, parts of the spectrum most plants – including cannabis – don’t use. But even among these colors, CMH lights still emit the blue-to-red light ratio marijuana thrives under. 

CMH lights also boast a more intense light frequency than LED, giving a stronger, more even heat canopy for indoor growers. This heat can reach 1700 degrees Fahrenheit on a 300 watt bulb, greatly reducing the energy costs growers are seeing with traditional grow lighting. 

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, more research will conclude which grow lighting technology truly yields the most potent plants at the lowest cost. As more states work to legalize marijuana, we’re confident that the cannabis industry will continue to invest in the technology and techniques that sustain their business.


[photo credit: Laura Scudder]

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