Published October 27, 2018 | Version 1.1.1
Dataset Open

Spectral transmittance of solar radiation by screens and nets used in horticulture and agriculture

  • 1. University of Helsinki
  • 2. Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)
  • 1. University of Helsinki
  • 2. LUKE, Finland
  • 3. North Carolina State University
  • 4. University of Riga
  • 5. University of Aberdeen
  • 6. Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam
  • 7. ARRIGONI S.p.A.


We present a dataset of measurement of the spectral transmittance of 197 horticultural nets and screens from five companies. These materials span a range of uses from shading and reducing the heat load on plants to blocking pests such as birds and insects. Routinely, these materials are used in greenhouses and polytunnels to reduce the sunlight received by plants, however their spectral transmittance is not routinely measured. The spectral irradiance that plants receive can affect plant growth and photomorphogenesis, hence this information is of value when selecting the most appropriate material for a given purpose. The spectral transmittance of the materials was measured outdoors close to solar noon using an array spectrometer calibrated for the range 290-900 nm and compared directly with the ambient solar spectral irradiance. The measured spectrum encompasses those regions perceived by plants through known photoreceptors and used by plants in photosynthesis: ultraviolet (UV); photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), and near infra red (far red – FR).

The solar spectral photon irradiance (μmol m-2 s-1) transmitted by screens and nets from several manufacturers was measured with an array spectroradiometer. Our measurements and analyses are focused on the differences in spectral irradiance, created when employing these screens and nets, in order to address the lack of detailed studies of these light environments, rather than the physiochemical properties of materials or their cost-effectiveness. The measurements of spectral irradiance under climate screens, and shade and insect nets, were made on clear days in sunny conditions close to solar noon (between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m local time) at NC State University campus (35.78°N, -78.67°W) in late July and early August 2017, and in Viikki Field Plots at the University of Helsinki (60.22°N, 25.01°E, 55 m asl) in July and August 2018. The methods for measurements at North Carolina State University follow the protocol described below and published in Kotilainen et al., (2018), where a comprehensive assessment of the results of this subset of screens/nets and their meaning is also given.

The measurements were performed in an open field with no surrounding structures or buildings within 20 m. Repeated measurements of each different sample were made in a randomised order, thus ensuring comparability among measurements. Measurements were made on a tripod 0.7 m above the ground and the sample was secured to a wooden plate 3 cm above the diffusor. A test, comparing four larger (1 x 1 m) samples against those of the standard dimensions that we used, found that the area of screen/net measured did not affect the results at this distance between the screen/net and diffusor. Thus, there was no evidence that unfiltered diffuse or scattered radiation interfered with measurements despite the relatively small dimensions of the sample.

Measurements under each screen/net sample in 2017 (Svensson 13 x 19 cm, Mallas Textiles 8 x 10 cm) were made twice to account for any possible effect of sample placement over the cosine diffuser and change in the sun angle during a set of measurements.  Given that no significant differences were evidence, the 2018 screen/net samples (Criado y Lopez 8 x 12 cm, Howitec 15 x 25 cm, Huachang yarns 25 x 30 cm, and Jiangsu Huachang Yarns and Fabrics 8 x 12 cm) were only measurement once. A recording of spectral irradiance without the screen/net of filtered sunlight was made directly before and after each filter measurement (called “Open”).

The spectrometer used had been calibrated for measurements of UV and visible solar radiation (Maya2000 Pro Ocean Optics, Dunedin, FL, USA; D7-H-SMA cosine diffuser, Bentham Instruments Ltd, Reading, UK - see Hartikainen et al., 2018 for details of the measurement protocol). Briefly, each measurement of irradiance transmitted beneath a screen or net was followed by sequence of measurements in the dark and with a polycarbonate filter attenuating all UV radiation. These controls accounted for the dark noise and stray light in the UV waveband. Both a correction for the shape of the slit function and for stray light were included in the post-processing of the spectra (Aphalo et al., 2016). Bracketing was performed by taking a measurement of the UV region and splicing this together this the entire spectrum. All measurements were processed using the Photobiology packages in R.

Measurements of solar spectral irradiance in the wavelength range from 290 nm to 900 nm were processed in R, using the photobiology packages developed for spectral analysis (Aphalo, 2015). We present spectral photon irradiance (μmol m-2 s-1) and spectral energy irradiance (W m-2). Plants absorbs photons producing a chemical change (Grotthus Law) thus photon irradiance is more easily applicable understanding to biological processes in plants. The spectral transmittance of the screens/nets are the most useful data presented. Essentially the patterns of spectral attenuation will be consistent, irrespective of whether spectra are expressed as photon or energy irradiance.

Utilizing predefined functions available in the photobiology packages, we calculated the integrals and photon ratios of these integrals as follows: UVB:PAR 280–315 nm/400-700 nm, UVA:PAR 315–400 nm/400-700 nm, blue:green (B:G) 420–490 nm/500-570 nm, blue:red (B:R) 420–490 nm/620-680 nm. Red and far-red for the calculation of R:FR ratio are 655–665 nm and 725–735 nm, respectively. UVB radiation and UVA radiation are defined according to ISO, blue, green and red according to Sellaro et al. (2010), and R:FR according to Smith(1982).

The same definitions of the UV-waveband are maintained for both spectral integrals and their ratios throughout, i.e. according to ISO, (Both et al., 2017). This is because the UVB and UVA wavebands of solar radiation follow distinct daily patterns of variation; UVB irradiance is highest during the four hours around solar noon, whereas the UVA region of solar radiation remains a similar proportion of total irradiance throughout the day. These differences also imply that UVA and UVB radiation follow different diurnal and seasonal patterns of variation (Seckmeyer et al., 2007).

Data Files Available

Graphs (.jpg files) of actual measured (1) spectral energy irradiance, (2) spectral photon irradiance, and (3) proportion transmittance of solar radiation, for each screen and net.  (1) Energy Irradiance figures (suffix _EI.) and (2) Photon Irradiance figures (suffix _PI.) are plot of the measured values of irradiance under the filter (screen/net) and corresponding measurements without the screen or net (“open” measurement) for comparison (290-898 nm wavelength range).  The proportion transmittance under each screen or net is calculated from comparison of the open and measured spectrum (suffix _Trans). The low-wavelength tail end of the spectrum is trimmed (<310 nm) in each plots since % transmittance are inflated by low signal to noise ratio in the UV-B region where irradiance values are very low.

The database screens and net are identified by the name of the company “_” name of the screen/net for all 197 materials.

These figures can be reproduced from the file “ScreensNets_irrad_trans.txt” using the R code “Plotting_DataBaseScreensNets.r”

Image files (.jpg files) from photos and scans of each of the measured screens and nets. One image from each of the 197 filter materials (screens/nets) measured is stored in folders arranged according to the company for each filter type. The companies are: Criado y Lopez; HowiTech; Huanchang yarns; Jiangsu Huachang Yarns & Fabrics; Mallas_Textiles and Svensson.


This is the main database file containing the measurements of spectral irradiance beneath each filter material (screen/net) from 290 nm – 898 nm and corresponding open reading, and calculated spectral transmittance.

Data are in columns as follows: (A) Company – the Company name; (B) FilterName – the filter name as given by the company; (C) Serial - a serial number, effectively equivalent to the order in which the materials were measured; (D) wavelength – at intervals recorded by the array spectrometer running for each spectrum from 290.02 nm to 897.73 nm; (D) FilterEI - energy irradiance of transmitted solar radiation measured 3 cm beneath the filter material (screen/net) at each wavelength of the spectrum; (E) FilterPI – photon irradiance equivalent to the energy irradiance; (F) OpenEI – energy irradiance of solar radiation at the same location without the filter material (screen/net) (G) OpenPI – photon irradiance equivalent to the energy irradiance; (H) FilterFactor – the proportion of radiation transmitted by the filter material (screen/net) at each wavelength measured, a value between 0.0 and 1.0 (values out of range at low wavelengths in the UV-B region are replaced with 0.0 or 0.1).

Processed spectra are given: processing of raw spectra was done with Photobiology packages in R. Full spectra were recorded with an integration time set manually to give maximum counts of just less than 60 000 at the wavelength corresponding to peak spectral irradiance. Bracketing was performed by recording a second spectrum (long spectrum) with ten-times longer integration time than this, to achieve greater accuracy of measurement in the UV region (< 400 nm). These two spectra were spliced together. Each filter measurement was accompanied by a dark measurement (to estimate dark noise) and a measurement under a polycarbonate filter (PC) to correct for stray light. In 2018, these two readings were performed immediately after the filter material (screen/net) was measured; both within 10 s total of the filter material measurement for both the full spectrum, and long spectrum.


This Excel file contains the same information in columns as the file ScreensNets_irrad_trans.txt but with a second worksheet showing the trimming calculations for out-of-range readings at low UV-B wavelength and with an addition final column, the irradiance spectrum open29_irrad (described below).


In order to obtain standardised BSWF files to comparison with each other, the calculated proportion spectral transmittance results for each filter material (screen/net) were applied to a “standard” solar-noon open-spectrum from Helsinki recorded on a date close to midsummer (Open29_irrad.txt). This spectrum was measured as described above.

This spectrum was measured at Viikki Fields, Helsinki on Wed June 27th 2018 at 13:15:33 EEST (Integration Time, 110000 μsec; bracketting x10) in a completely open area.

To apply the transmittance data to their own locations, database users should substitute the spectrum from their own location for Open29_irrad.txt to obtain spectral irradiance data for the effects of the filter materials (screens/net) at their site using the R code Calculating_Spectral_Integrals.r


The file gives a matrix of spectral integrals and ratios calculated with the Photobiology packages in R for each of the spectra presented in ScreensNets_irrad_trans.txt.  Column headings are the filter material ID, made up from the “Company name” “_” “filter name”. The first column contains row names identifying spectral integrals and ratios calculated – first as energy irradiance then as photon irradiance and finally as photon ratios. Calculations are made using the BSWF (Spectral_Integrals_Function.r) as follows: PAR_e; UVB_e; UVA_e; UVb350_e; UVa350_e; Blue_e; Green_e; Red_e; Far_red_e; GEN_G_e; GEN_T_e; PG_e; DNA_N_e; CIE_e; FLAV_e; Infra_red_e; PAR_q; UVB_q; UVA_q; UVb350_q; UVa350_q; Blue_q; Green_q; Red_q; Far_red_q; GEN_G_q; GEN_T_q; PG_q; DNA_N_q; CIE_q; FLAV_q; Infra_red_q; UVB_UVA; UVB_PAR; UVA_PAR; R_FR_Sellaro; R_FR_Smith10; R_FR_Smith20; B_G; B_R; PhyEqi.


This files contains the same data as ScreensNets_spectral_integrals.txt and shows on individual worksheets, processing of original, smoothed (in Photobiology package to improve the signal to noise in the UV-B tail of the spectr), and corrected (with values of transmittance greater than 1.0 or less than 0.0 replaced in the UV-B tail) data; and comparisons of the Original vs. Corrected, and Original vs. Smoothed data. The same BSWF calculations for the example open spectrum open29_irrad (used for standardisation) are given on their own worksheet, as is the corresponding “FilterFactor” (proportion spectral transmittance) for each spectral integral and spectral photon ratio. The final worksheet “Type” lists the filters and their expected function (i.e. shade, pest net, hale net, ground cover etc.).

This “FilterFactor” information could be of practical use in situations where the spectral irradiance is unavailable for a given location, and comparisons among filters need to be made from only partial data (e.g. PAR PPDF).  These FilterFactors can be applied to the PAR PPDF for instance to calculate the daily light integral through the day for horticultural proposes.  Please note that differences in the shape of the solar spectrum at different locations will cause (small) deviations in the transmitted PAR PPFD calculated from the spectral integral compared with the more precise calculation from the spectral irradiance. Although for the purposes of comparison between filters these are likely to be of minor importance. 


This file gives the R code for plotting the graphs in from the source file ScreensNets_irrad_trans.txt. Make sure that the required packages are loaded. The code was run in R version 3.4.3.


The file gives the R code to calculate spectral integrals and to include an open measurement for standardisation (Open29_irrad) from the source file ScreensNets_irrad_trans.txt (as described above). The spectra in ScreensNets_irrad_trans.txt are converted to source.spct for use in the Photobiology packages.


The file is a function requiring the Photobiology packages in R to run. It is needed to calculate the spectral integrals described above and can be amended to obtain whichever spectral integrals and photon ratios from the Photobiology packages are desired.


Funded by the Academy of Finland (Suomen Akademia) Decision Numbers #304653 and #304519 Version 1.1.1 update from version 1.1.0 involves renaming of files to make their content more easily identifiable and understood, and upload of R code to make graphs and spectral integrals.


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Additional details

Related works


  • Aphalo PJ, Robson TM, Piiparinen J (2016) How to check an array spectrometer,
  • Aphalo PJ, (2015) The R4photobiology Suite: Spectral Irradiance. UV4Plants Bulletin 2015 (1), 21-29.
  • Hartikainen SM, Jach A, Grané A. Robson, TM. (2018) Assessing scale-wise similarity of curves with a thick pen: as illustrated through comparisons of spectral irradiance. Ecology & Evolution 8, 10206-10218.
  • Kotilainen TK, Robson TM, Hernández R. (2018) Light quality characterization under climate screens and shade nets for controlled-environment agriculture. PLoS ONE 13(6): e0199628.
  • Both A-J, Bugbee B, Kubota C, Lopez RG, Mitchell C, Runkle ES, Wallace C. (2017) Proposed Product Label for Electric Lamps Used in the Plant Sciences HortTechnology 27(4) 544-549. doi: 10.21273/HORTTECH03648-16
  • Sellaro R, Crepy M, Trupkin SA, Karayekov E, Buchovsky AS, Rossi C, Casal JJ, (2010) Cryptochrome as a Sensor of the Blue/Green Ratio of Natural Radiation in Arabidopsis Plant Physiology, 154 (1) 401-409. DOI: 10.1104/pp.110.160820
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  • Smith H. (1982) Light quality, photoperception and plant strategy. Annu Rev Plant Physiol. 33, 481-518.