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Youbin’s early research focused on using controlled environment facilities to study the effects of environmental pollution on plant physiology and biochemistry. For the last two decades he’s built on that research and integrated his broad knowledge of plants, soils and the environment to serve many sectors in the horticulture industry. These include indoor cannabis production, ornamentals, greenhouse vegetables, nursery and landscape, green roof and urban agriculture sectors. Youbin also looks at how horticultural technologies can improve the environment. He has lived, studied, and conducted research in Canada, Japan, Britain and China, and travels with an open scientific mind.
Meet Prof. Youbin Zheng
Check out Youbin's 60 second snapshot video here.
- Ph.D. (Plant physiology and Biochemistry), Newcastle University, UK
- M.Phil. (Plant physiology and Biochemistry), Newcastle University, UK
- B.Sc. (Soil science and Agrochemistry), Southwest University, China
- M.Sc. (Agriculture environmental science), Southwest University, China
Affiliations and Partnerships
- Vice president, Canadian Society for Horticultural Science/La Société Canadienne de Science Horticole (cshs.ca)
- Chair, International Society for Horticultural Science Workgroup Composting for Horticultural Applications (ishs.org/composting-horticultural-applications-0)
- Editorial review board member, Journal of Living Architecture (greeninfrastructurefoundation.org/jliv/)
- Associate editor, Canadian Journal of Plant Science (nrcresearchpress.com/journal/cjps)
- Consulting Editor for HortScience (https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/hortsci-overview.xml)
The objectives of Youbin’s research program are to provide new scientific knowledge and technologies to 1) produce plant materials in controlled environments (e.g., greenhouses, indoor) more efficiently and environmentally friendly, and 2) use green infrastructure (e.g. green roofs, constructed wetlands, rain gardens) to improve the environment and build a sustainable society. In addition to the impacts of his research described below, his team has established the Greenhouse and Nursery Water Treatment Information System, a Fertilizer Guide for Container Plant Production, and developed an integrated rootzone management program for horticulture, that provides alternatives to the use of pesticides.
Current Research Projects
Indoor medical cannabis production
Youbin’s group is investigating optimal lighting and fertilization to help the industry produce high yield and quality cannabis more efficiently. This includes growing plants in pots with soilless substrate and aquaponic production systems. The research recently resulted in publication of North America’s first few peer-reviewed scientific papers on indoor medical cannabis production. Funders include, but are not limited to, NSERC, OCE, Up Cannabis, and Green Relief etc.
LED lighting for microgreen production under indoor and in greenhouse environments
Versatile new LED technologies have the potential to produce high quality and high yield microgreens (mini versions of full grown vegetables; they often have more nutrients and flavour). Funders include NSERC, Greenbelt Microgreens, and Helliospectra AB.
LED lighting to improve ornamental crop production
Another possibility with LED lights is to vary the colour and combinations of colours of light so that plants grow to the shape and size consumers demand, without the application of chemical growth regulators. Youbin is also investigating how to use light more efficiently to increase plant photosynthesis, growth and yield. Funders include, but are not limited to, AAFC, COHA, LumiGrow, and Yunustech.
Low cost, environmentally friendly substrates for green infrastructures.
Building on the plant production and maintenance technologies Youbin’s team developed for green roofs, they are now investigating waste or recyclable materials as possible growing substrates. The objective is to support healthy plants and reduce or eliminate nutrient leaching to the environment. Funders include OCE and Mar-Co.
Graduate Student Information
Youbin’s graduate student training is focused on preparing students for the real world, whether that be industry, government or academia. Both academic and social skills are emphasized. He encourages his students to work independently, but also to collaborate and interact with others in the lab and in society at large. Students graduating from Youbin’s program have either been hired by their chosen organizations or moved to a higher level of education. Recently, quite a few have been hired by the medical cannabis industry.
- Kong Y, Stasiak M, Dixon M and Zheng Y. 2018. Blue light associated with low phytochrome activity can promote elongation growth as shade-avoidance response: A comparison with red light in four bedding plant species. Environmental an Experimental Botany. 155: 345-359. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envexpbot.2018.07.021.
- Caplan D, Stemeroff J Dixon M and Zheng Y. 2018. Vegetative propagation of cannabis by stem cuttings: effects of leaf number, cutting position, rooting hormone and removal of leaf tips. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 98: 1126–1132.
- Mah J, Llewellyn D and Zheng Y. 2018. Morphology and flowering responses of four bedding plant species to a range of red to far red ratios. HortScience. 53(4):472–478. 2018.
- Caplan D, Dixon M and Zheng Y. 2017. Optimal rate of organic fertilizer during the flowering-stage for cannabis grown in two coir-based substrates. HortScience. 52 (12): 1796-1803.
- Caplan D, Dixon M and Zheng Y. 2017. Optimal rate of organic fertilizer during the vegetative-stage for cannabis grown in two coir-based substrates. HortScience. 52(9):1307–1312.
- Rozema ER, Rozema LR, and Zheng Y. 2016. A vertical flow constructed wetland for the treatment of winery process water and domestic sewage in Ontario, Canada: six years of performance data. Ecological Engineering. 86: 262-268.