Growers know that nutrient-rich potting mixes and adequate lighting are important when growing healthy plants. At the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES), scientists and greenhouse workers are teaching researchers these basic principles.
According to an article provided by Cornell University, Andy Leed, greenhouse manager at Cornell University, demonstrated the difference potting mix can make at a March open house for researchers across campus. Leed showcased flats of arabidopsis, a choice plant for researchers concerned with genetics and molecular biology. Four flats boasted a vigorous carpet of healthy plants, but another three flats looked sickly.
“I saw a lot of raised eyebrows,” Leed says in the article. While many researchers might assume the differences came from pest exposure or germination issues, potting soil was to blame. According to Leeds, researchers “need to know if the potting medium they use is compatible with their crop and irrigation protocol.”
According to the article, Melissa Brechner, an Extension associate in biological and horticultural engineering, also stressed the importance of light exposure. While researchers use supplemental light to grow plants during darker winter months, the light meters are often not set up to accommodate the way plants use light. Instead, the meters measure light from the human perspective.
Light meters calibrated for people, not plants, overestimate the light plants are receiving, Brechner says in the article. “You can’t really replicate someone’s experiments if their measurements are flawed.”
At CUAES, which oversees 146 greenhouse operations, the focus of getting researchers to understand the importance of proper soil and light exposure comes down to being green.
“We are working hard to become one of the most sustainably run research greenhouse operations in the world,” Director of Operations for CUAES Glenn Evans says in the article. In order to complete this goal, plant growth needs to be improved so that experiments can be replicable. By running better experiments, researchers learn more, which, Evans says, “is essential to true sustainability.”