Two concepts that are commonly used to measure light in the context of plant growth are PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) and PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density). These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different aspects of light that affect plant growth.
By understanding the relationship between PAR and PPFD, you can provide the right environment and care for your houseplants, ensuring they thrive and bring joy to their homes.
By the end of this article, you'll have a better understanding of how to optimize the light conditions for your plants, and why both PAR and PPFD are important considerations.
Understanding PAR & PPFD
What is PAR and why is it important for plant growth?
PAR is the spectrum of light wavelengths that plants use for photosynthesis (400nm - 700nm). It is important for plant growth because it determines the rate of photosynthesis, which in turn affects plant growth and development.
TLDR: PAR is all the different kinds of light plants need.
What is PPFD and why is it important for plant growth?
PPFD stands for Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density. PPFD is a measure of the amount of PAR that is actually hitting a specific area per unit time, usually expressed in micromoles per square meter per second (μmol/m²/s). It is important for plant growth as it quantifies the amount of PAR, and is also a way to describe the intensity of light within the PAR range that plants need for photosynthesis.
TLDR: PPFD is how much of the light is actually hitting the plant.
What is the difference between PAR & PPFD?
PAR is the range of wavelengths of light that plants need for photosynthesis, while PPFD measures the amount of PAR that is actually hitting the plant at a specific location and time. So PAR is the type of light and PPFD is how much of that light there is.
Why does knowing PAR & PPFD matter?
House plants have different light requirements, and understanding the PAR and PPFD levels in a specific environment can help determine the optimal location for a plant, as well as the appropriate lighting for a specific species.
For example, some plants like cacti and succulents need bright, direct light to thrive, while others like ferns and snake plants prefer lower light levels. By measuring the PAR levels in a given environment, growers can ensure that their plants are receiving the optimal amount of light for their needs.
PAR & PPFD in Your Daily Plant Care
Using PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) and PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) in your daily plant care routine can help you ensure that your plants are receiving the appropriate amount and quality of light they need for optimal growth, but how can you do that?
Tools for Monitoring & Measuring PAR & PPFD at Home
There are several tools available for monitoring PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) and PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) at home. Here are some examples:
PAR meters are handheld devices that measure the amount of PAR in a specific area.
- Easy to use
- Provide a quick and simple measurement of PAR levels
- May not provide accurate PPFD measurements
- Require frequent calibration
- May measure a small area at a time
- Generally expensive
Spectrometers are devices that measure the spectrum of light emitted by a light source, including the wavelengths of light that are important for plant growth. By analyzing the spectrum of light, you can determine the PAR and PPFD levels.
- Can provide detailed information about the spectrum of light emitted by a light source
- Can help determine the quality of light for plant growth
- Can be used for scientific research
- Require professional calibration and maintenance
- May be too difficult for at home growers
Light meters are devices that measure the amount of light in a specific area, including PAR and PPFD levels.
- Less expensive than PAR meters and quantum sensors
- Can provide a good estimate of light levels
- Can be used for both indoor and outdoor gardening
- May not provide accurate PPFD measurements
- May be less precise than other tools
- May need frequent calibration
There are also several mobile apps available that use the camera on your smartphone to measure PAR and PPFD levels. These apps are not as accurate as dedicated devices, but they can be a convenient and cost-effective way to monitor light levels.
- Convenient and cost-effective
- Can provide a quick measurement of PAR levels
- Easy to use with a smartphone camera
- May not be as accurate as dedicated tools
- Can be affected by variations in phone cameras and lighting conditions
- May not provide PPFD measurements
- Accurate measurements
- Easy to use
- Real-time data
- Precise control
- You may need multiple sensors for multiple plants
A specialty plant sensor like leaflet can measure PAR & PPFD as leaflet has a built-in PAR meter and spectrometer for professional readings without difficult calibration.
In addition to PAR & PPFD, leaflet measures a wide range of health variables such as temperature, humidity, and soil moisture in real-time. By monitoring these parameters in real-time, growers can make adjustments to their environment as needed to ensure optimal conditions for their plants.
For example, if the sensor indicates a plant is receiving too little light, a grower can adjust the lighting immediately, while monitoring the temperature and humidity levels to ensure that the plant is not stressed by the increased light.
Read more about how leaflet uses all plant health variables to create a holistic view of plant health in Sensors 101.
PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) and PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) are important considerations when using grow lights in your daily plant care routine. Here are some ways PAR and PPFD relate to grow lights:
- Type of light: Different types of grow lights emit different amounts and types of PAR and PPFD, and not all grow lights are suitable for all types of plants. By understanding your plants' PAR and PPFD requirements, you can choose the right grow lights for your specific needs.
- Positioning: The position of your grow lights can affect the intensity and distribution of PAR and PPFD in your growing area. By measuring the PAR and PPFD levels at different heights and distances from your grow lights, you can determine the optimal positioning for your lights to ensure that your plants are receiving the appropriate light levels.
- Lighting schedule: Plants need a certain amount of PAR and PPFD each day, but the duration and timing of the light exposure can also affect growth. By understanding your plants' PAR and PPFD requirements, you can set the right light schedule for your grow lights to optimize your plants' growth.
- Performance: Over time, the performance of your grow lights can degrade, which can result in reduced PAR and PPFD levels. Regularly measuring the PAR and PPFD levels in your growing area can help you detect any changes in light levels and take appropriate action, such as replacing or repairing your grow lights.
What is the optimal PAR or PPFD level for plant growth?
The optimal PAR or PPFD level for plant growth will depend on the specific plant species and growth stage, as well as environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. This can easily be determined with a specialty plant sensor, but as a general rule, most plants require a PPFD of at least 200 µmol/m²/s for proper growth.
How do I adjust my grow lights to achieve the desired PAR or PPFD level?
To adjust your grow lights to achieve the desired PAR or PPFD level, you can use a specialty plant sensor like leaflet or any other tool listed previously in the article (Par meter, Spectrometer, Light meter). Check the pros and cons, and find which one works best for you. Measure the current light levels, and then adjust the distance between the light source and plants, or the intensity of the light source itself, until the desired level is achieved.
Can too much PAR or PPFD be harmful to plants?
Yes, too much PAR or PPFD can be harmful to plants, just as too little can be. High light levels can cause damage to plant cells, and can also cause excessive heat buildup, which can be harmful to plants. It is important to monitor light levels and adjust accordingly to prevent damage to your plants.