By Cosmos Burningham

We knew this day was coming. Although some indoor gardeners are still in denial and arguably most are not ready to trade in all of the High Pressure Sodium Is in their flowering room in exchange for an exclusively Light Emitting Diode solution, especially with all of the huge advances documented lately utilizing the double ended platform. Nobody can deny the long-term potential of the LEDs however, it seems rather like a question of when? With Chinese technology becoming more and more efficient and cost-effective by the month, it seems as if that day is in the not-so-distant future. Some pioneers are putting their money where their mouths’ are right now and significant growers too, with a lot to lose, both financially and reputation-wise. We’ve seen, smelled, and smoked the power of the LED flowered nug with our own eyes, noses, and mouths and we are finally excited to share our findings with you and even more excited for the very near future of the industry. I must admit, I’ve been skeptical and mostly because I had never seen the technology successfully implemented exclusively in the flowering room, until now.

In 1990, LED grow lights underwent initial testing with hopes that they could become a common indoor horticulture solution and eventually dominate the landscape. Historically, these lamps had no chance in the early nineties and like the electric vehicle, we saw the technology limp into the market 15 to 20 years later as daredevil growers and hippies concerned about their carbon footprint invested in LED’s for their veg. room and perhaps some supplemental light in the fruiting room. But talk of flowering rooms equipped exclusively with LED’s, showcasing vibrant LED flowers, has been almost absent from the landscape until 2015 when a significant number of legitimate commercial growers embraced the technology.

While working on this article, I’ve had the chance to meet some of the LED pioneers and during my research I’ve been exposed to some of the finest cannabis I’ve ever encountered. I can honestly say that up until this assignment, I was not a supporter–just hadn’t seen the evidence until I started my research at the local hydro shop. Just as the clerks and I got into a discussion of how we have yet to see the evidence, in walks an unsuspecting, thirty-something fellow with a turkey bag, I’m guessing a half-pound, of gleaming, fuzzy sweaters, dense, super-terpped and coated with triches. “These were flowered exclusively under LED’s”, the gent proclaimed. He had been eavesdropping on our conversation for some time and decided to step outside and rejoin us to set the record straight. You could tell they were cookies family at first site and they were some of the finest smelling, tasting and stoniest I’ve tried.

Later that week, I was introduced to Robin at Oregon Girl Gardens, who has just made a significant investment in LED grow lights for her indoor grow. The dam burst open shortly after when I learned from Kevin and the folks at NextLight, a high-quality LED startup, that my neighbor JD Short, son of the legendary cannabis breeder DJ Short of Old World Genetics, is incorporating their LED solutions for indoor grow lighting at his space as well. A legendary breeder in his own right, JD is a pioneer of the industry and he’s hedging his bet on NextLight’s LED technology for producing LED flowers.

So what’s changed, besides increasingly more efficient diodes? Historically, growers have focused on the blue and red parts of the light spectrum for cannabis cultivation—blue for vegetative growth and red for flowering, and these spectrums have been fulfilled by Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium bulbs respectively for years. LED manufacturers naturally focused their initial efforts on those two facets of the spectrum, and now science is divulging that there is something to be said for the other colors, especially yellow and green, and for UVB rays as well. Modern incarnations of the industry have incorporated a white light spectrum inclusive of all colors, and some can be adjusted to a particular grower’s desire. LEDs also give off more UVB rays than their predecessors. Most growers have seen the light regarding the importance of some beneficial UVB light to increase terpene production and profile—by sight and smell evidence and not so much scientifically, yet.

Be sure to do your homework, talk to the people at the grow shop, talk to your grower friends, and call up each of the companies you are potentially investing in and interview them as if you were hiring someone for a very important job. Do your best to make sure you are investing in a reputable solution and people that are willing to stand behind their claims. In the process, you will likely find some passionate people that are willing to tell you more about lighting than you care to know. At least you will be prepared to spend your hard-earned money effectively, and during the calls, you will be able to separate the professionals from the salespeople, giving you a more balanced picture of the state of the industry.