Myth busters Ė itís the light, stupid.
What do lst, topping, fimming, top and prune, scrog, sog, stadium, vertical, and all similar indoor training techniques have in common?
Why do some growers seem to do great with these techniques and others struggle to make them work?
Are the lighting recommendations of 7,000 to 10,000 lumens per square foot as a target, and 3,000 lumens per square foot as a minimum, good guidelines?
What growing tool do you not have that is critical to the success of your indoor grow?
First Myth Ė we can replicate the sunís intensity with high intensity lighting. No, we canít. light decreases rapidly (by the inverse square of distance) as it moves away from the source. the sun is approximately 93 million miles away from the plant itís shining on and itís intensity is the same whether at the top of the plant or the very bottom because the percentage change in distance from the sun is so small. Indoors, a totally different story where my 600 watt hps light provides 10,000 lumens per square foot at 21 inches from the light but only 2,000 lumens per square foot at 29 inches.
Letís see how this plays out in practice:
and this is how your plant experiences the light:
as you can see, only a very small portion of your indoor plant is getting sufficient light for growth.
Compare this to what your plant sees outdoors:
the numbers seem similar but the difference in amount of light received is great. To highlight the difference I calculated a new number, lumens per cubic inch, to represent the three dimensional effect of light Ė the plants are three dimensional so using a three dimensional measure only makes sense.
Iíll save the detailed calculations for a later post, but the end result is that the sun in my desert climate provides 50 lumens per cubic inch whereas my 600 watt light provides only 12.9 lumens per cubic inch on average over the whole plant. the sun provides almost four times the usable light compared to a 600 watt hps light and I would argue probably represents the entire difference between indoor and outdoor grow results.
Second Myth Ė you should use an air-cooled light to get as close to the plants as you can without burning the leaves. There still is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and you can have so much light that it reduces the ability of the plant to absorb light. Generally speaking, you should be able to keep your light at the proper distance without air-cooling your light. It can still make sense to air-cool your light as an efficient way to help cool the whole room.
Third Myth Ė the popular plant training techniques have some major benefit other than shaping a plant to most efficiently use indoor lighting. Maybe they do, but itís hard to argue that each and every method ends up with more growth tips in a narrow band of vertical space. Maybe the key difference between techniques is the least damage done to the plant to create the desired shape??
Letís look at each method:
1. topping Ė the benefit of topping is that you get more than one main cola. But thatís just another way of saying you have increased the number of growth tips at the top of the plant and all at roughly the same height. The roughly is important, because the horizontal difference in distance can mean that one cola directly under the bulb is at 70 lumens per cubic inch while a cola at the same height at the other end of the hood is at 21 lumens per cubic inch. I would expect topping to increase yields even further if you managed the top colas to be the same distance from the bulb instead of the same height from the ground.
2. Scrog and sog Ė these techniques are inarguably designed to keep the tops of the plants at the same height. Again, I would expect yields to increase even further if you managed the plants to be the same distance from the bulb instead of the same distance from the ground.
3. Stadium and Vertical Ė once again these techniques explicitly manage the plant canopy to keep as close to the same distance from the light as possible. In these cases youíre actually measuring distance from the bulb so they should be easier to make more efficient use of light than the other methods, all other things equal.
Fourth Myth Ė you can get good results from these training techniques without careful attention to the distance from the light. No, you canít. you have wasted all of your efforts to train the plants if you fail to keep the growth tips in the narrow window of optimal light (in the case of the 600 watt light, thatís 21 to 24 inches from the bulb).
Fifth Myth Ė 7,000 to 10,000 lumens per square foot (50 to 70 lumens per cubic inch) is the optimal amount of light. Maybe it is, and maybe itís not. Iíve seen no empirical data to support that claim. Letís take my calibrated light meter on a search for the optimal light. Iím going to be running a series of experiments to test the light sensitivity of plants and will post the results here. Stay tuned.
And if you havenít guessed it already, a light meter with a reading up to 20,000 foot-candles (lumens per square foot) is an invaluable tool for good indoor growing, although I suspect experienced growers have learned to judge their light without the aid of a meter.