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replies about Arabidopsis growth rooms

Robert Sablowski Robert.Sablowski at bbsrc.ac.uk
Tue May 16 04:15:10 EST 2000

Dear Colleagues,

The replies to my message about  Arabidopsis growth rooms  were few but very
In case anybody else is interested, I have pasted the replies below.
Thanks to those that took their time to help.


First message from:
David A. Patton, Ph.D.
Novartis Agribusiness Biotechnology Research, Inc.
3054 Cornwallis Rd.
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2257

Phone (919)541-8521
FAX (919)541-8585
e-mail: david.patton at nabri.novartis.com


A few years ago I built a room that sounds exactly like what you describe.
grow plants using the Aracon system with flats that are around the same size
mentioned and it has been working great.  I will find the name of the
who makes the shelves we used and send it later.  Basically the shelves are
like what we can "pallet racks" .

We use a piece of 2 inch hard foam insulation underneath each shelf to help
the shelves cool.  We also use fans and directed, cool air from ventilation
blow air over the fluorescent lights.   All air flow in the room is
uni-directional.   We have vents (registers) blowing cool air (over the
racks) on one end of the room and large (2 feet square) air uptake (return)
the other end of the room that draws in the warm air and expels it to
atmosphere.  This is important in case you ever want the spray insecticides
the room and avoid contaminating the air in the rest of the building.

I think I spent about $15,000 building the whole room, including walls,
and light fixtures.    I will take a few digital pictures and send them
along if
you are interested.

Let me know how much detail you want and I will try to get it together.

Best regards,


Leslie E. Sieburth
Assistant Professor
University of Utah
Department of Biology
257 South 1400 East
Salt Lake City, UT   84112-0840

sieburth at biology.utah.edu
801-587-9378 (PHONE)
801-581-4668 (FAX)

I've tried two versions of low-tech plant growth rooms.  I have found
that I get less shelf-to-shelf temperature variability if the shelves
are made of metal mesh (metro shelves) (rather than solid, like wood,
or mesh that is covered with something).  As for temperature control,
my best success was when a Carrier water-cooled air conditioner was
installed in the room, and no house air supplied.  This configuration
requires house water that is cooled, and the danger is that if the
water is ever shut off (e.g. burst pipe), the air cooling stops.  The
cooling capacity needed is ALWAYS underestimated by the engineers, so
it is useful to be stubborn and to insist on twice the capacity.

I use lithonia fixtures with four fluorescent tubes each, per shelf.
To maximize space efficiency, I have short (10-inch) shelves at the
top for germination, and I progressively move the plants to more
roomy shelves as they bolt (18 inch and 27 inch shelves).  This also
minimizes seed drop problems that can occur with open shelving.

I also have all my lights in each room hooked up to a temperature
sensor/kill switch.  So, if the low-tech solution fails and the rooms
start to heat up, the lights will go off and the plants don't get

good luck!  Leslie

>>Detlef Weigel
>>Plant Biology Laboratory	EM weigel at salk.edu
>>Salk Institute			PH 858-453-4937
>>10010 N. Torrey Pines Rd.	FX 858-558-6379
>>La Jolla, CA 92037, USA

>>Dear Robert:
>>The most important thing is to invest big $$$ (or £££) in a/c.
>>Give the engineers temperature specifications at the low end (22C
>>or less).  This greatly reduces the risk of a/c failure.  Make also
>>sure to have a temperature cut out for the lights (i.e., temp goes
>>above 26C, al lights are switched off).
>>We use metal shelves, 5 x 2 feet, 86 inches tall, which accomodates
>>four layers (five shelves with the top shelf, which cannot be used
>>for plants, but if you have tall rooms, for storage of supplies).
>>You can calculate the distance from that. Each shelf is lighted by
>>4 40W lights.  We use a mix of Gro-Lux and Designer lights with a
>>relatively high color temperature (so it's more like sun light).
>>However, if you can get them, Cool-whites are just as good.  To
>>reduce heat load,
>>make sure to use electronic ballasts.
>>Hope this helps,


Tim McNellis
Penn State University

Dear Dr. Sablowski:

I have found that the following factors are important in setting up this
kind of growth room:

- a refrigeration unit capable of dissipating the heat load that the lights
will be generating;

- a dehumidifier that will run during the "night" to keep the humidity
down, preferably below about 75% (this is really important since humidity
tends to go very high in these kinds of rooms when the lights are off if
there is no dehumidification);

-  metal wire shelves (preferably epoxy-coated to prevent rust) that permit
air flow around the trays - this is very important to reduce fungus growth
and disease problems;

- use a mix of "cool white" and "gro lux" tubes in about a 3:1 ratio.

We use shelf heights from 18 - 24 " and this does not seem important.  Each
shelf level is 2' x 4' and there are 3 four-foot shop lights hanging over
each shelf.  Each shop light carries two fluorescent tubes.

We also use an air filter to purify the air.  This seems to help keep
fungus under control.  The refrigeration unit should have a fan to keep the
air moving in the room.  Finally, we found that digital timers were the
only timers that were accurate enough to synchronize all the lights.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

Dr. Robert Sablowski
Molecular Genetics Dept.- John Innes Centre
Norwich NR4 7UH
United Kingdom

Phone 44-1603-450530
FAX     44-1603-450045

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