Plant growth room

Ross Koning Koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Fri Oct 20 09:49:47 EST 1995

At 10:56 AM 10/19/95 -0700, Susan Schenk wrote:
>I am a solitary botanist in a department that doesn't teach any botany.
>I have a project in mind concerning photomorphogenesis that requires a
>walk-in growth chamber but we have
>none.  I have permission to convert a small room ( about 8'by 8') to this
>purpose and I would like any advice I can get on how to do it.  The
>temperature in the room is controlled by the buildings main computer.
>Do any of you have suggestions for lighting or for adjusting humidity?
>My budget is very small so cheap suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


The major enemy in a small growth chamber is heat buildup.
If you are doing photomorphogenesis, then you likely
do not need bright light...most responses operate with
p-chrome with very low irradiance.  The lighting can be
simple fluorescent shop-lights, or low-wattage incandescent
(for far-red sources).  These will generate only a small
amount of heat.  If you are doing high-irradiance-responses,
then you WILL need some kind of cooling, in my opinion.
Some of the more-expensive metal-halide lamps have water
cooling, providing you have a source of running cold water
in the room...even then you may need a small air-conditioner
to keep the place habitable for your plants.  Most plants
thrive at 65 F daytime and 55 F nighttime...if your central
heating/cooling can set this room to those conditions, your
plants will be fine.  I do not know how sophisticated your
system is, but if each room has its own thermostat that
reports to the computer, all you probably need to do is be
sure you have a programmable set-back thermostat on the
wall.  If the supply of conditioned air from the central
plant is sufficient, it may take care of the heat for you
just fine.  For a small room, a simple room-humidifier can
keep the level high enough for you.  Again, to help you avoid
baby-sitting this, be sure this thing is outfitted with a
float valve and plumbed to a water line and overflow drain line.
Your campus plumber can help you with more sophisticated
humidification built into the air supply ducts (if you have
those).  Sometimes simple solutions are the best.  I think
with some help from the campus electrician and plumber you
should be just fine.  You might want the painters to put some
mildew-resistant paint on walls and ceilings.

By the way, I have never found a commercial growth chamber
to stay on-line for more than a few months at a time.  I have
been at three Universities in my career with growth chambers
and they have all been a real pain.  They break down frequently
and at the worst possible moment for projects inside.  It is
usually the cooling system that fails and the plants bake
inside before any response to the alarms can occur.  So I
think the simpler work by your electrician and plumber has
a much better chance of lasting.  I have room air-conditioners
that have lasted for many years without a service call.
Sure, the temperature control is not as sophisticated and
the range of temperature throughout the day is perhaps a
bit wider between unit-on and unit-off cycles, but at least
your plants are not cooked!

I am a confirmed growth-chamber-hater...I think you are
on to something good!  Be of good cheer!  Good Luck!


( )______________________________________________)
 \ Ross Koning                                  \
  \ Biology Department                           \
   \ Eastern CT State University                  \
    \ Willimantic, CT  06226  USA                  \
     \ Koning at                    \
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