Heidi Lindberg
Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Heidi Lindberg is a greenhouse and nursery extension educator with Michigan State University Extension, based in Ottawa County in West Michigan. She serves growers in the Western Lower Peninsula. Below, she explains an online course she instructs through the university, Greenhouse and Horticultural Lighting.

Produce Grower: What does the Greenhouse and Horticultural Lighting course focus on?

Heidi Lindberg: The Greenhouse and Horticultural Lighting Course is a non-credit, self-paced online course. It is one of three courses in the College of Knowledge Online series through Michigan State University Extension. The other two are Floriculture Root Zone Management and Biological Control for Greenhouse Growers.

The course was developed by myself and Dr. Erik Runkle, professor of horticulture at Michigan State University. Dr. Roberto Lopez provided videos for the course demonstrating topics. In fact, starting for the summer 2018 session, Greenhouse and Horticultural Lighting will also be available in Spanish. The Spanish course has been developed with the assistance of Dr. Lopez, assistant professor of horticulture at MSU.

This 4-hour class consists of pre-recorded lectures and video demonstrations that are divided into seven units and includes the importance of light for plant growth; light quality, intensity, and quantity; photoperiodic lighting; and photosynthetic (high-intensity) lighting with both conventional lamps and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Participants will learn about the properties of light, how light regulates extension growth and flowering, how to measure the properties of light, and how to apply these concepts to a range of specialty crops including those grown in greenhouses and completely indoors.

Dr. Erik Runkle
Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

PG: Who would benefit from taking the course?

HL: Greenhouse growers or those interested in how light affects plant growth and development will benefit the most from the course. In addition, I have also had numerous entrepreneurs and technical sales representatives from lighting companies take the course to learn about different light spectra as they develop or sell new LED lamps for horticultural uses.

Dr. Roberto Lopez
Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

PG: What are some skills students can take away from the course?

HL: Students will learn the difference and benefits of both supplemental and photoperiodic lighting. Videos in the course demonstrate how to choose a light meter and how to use it to evaluate the lighting conditions of your growing environment.

PG: To take the course, should students have a horticultural degree or be working toward one?

HL: No, students of the course do not need any prior training to take the course. We start with very basic plant fundamentals and work up to very detailed examples on how supplemental or sole-source lighting can contribute to the production of high-quality plants.

HPS lighting of lettuce
Photo courtesy of Erik Runkle

PG: Does the course apply to both growers of produce and ornamental crops?

HL: Yes, the fundamentals of horticultural lighting reach to both produce and ornamental crops. However, the majority of examples are ornamental crops.

PG: When is the next enrollment period for the course?

HL: The next enrollment period for the summer session will begin in April and the content will be available from June 1 through the end of August 2018.

This interview has been edited for length.