More Rhizotron Scheming: Junior Rhizotrons

One of the things I love about working in academic horticulture is the vast range of things my job entails. One day I wear a jacket and tie to present research at a conference. One day I sit in the library and peruse texts on plant physiology. One day I give lectures and teach labs. One day I analyze data and write about what I observe. One day I spend in the greenhouse working with seedlings. One day I spend in the field planting trees. And so on.

I’ve had a few of the roll-up-my-sleeves and get work done type of days lately. I pride myself in not being outworked when it comes to the manual labor aspect of horticulture. My theory is that work is supposed to hurt a bit; I like to push myself.

One of these days recently involved shoveling several tons of soil and planting a large number of firs. As I carried this out I had a thought cross my mind. Why don’t I design a miniature rhizotron and look at root rot development in Fraser fir seedlings? This could be a cheap experiment that might produce some interesting data! I spent hours thinking about logistics.

It led to this:

The parts of my simple junior rhizotron.

The name mini rhizotron is already used for tube rhizotrons, so I dubbed mine a junior rhizotron. The frame is made from 1″x 2″ furring board, it measures 5″ x 7″. The plastic is from cheap containers I bought at Big Lots and cut to 5″ x 7″ size. A layer of 1/2″ foil covered foam goes on the outsides, then two rubber bands hold everything together.

The junior rhizotrons in the greenhouse.

My plan is to let the plants grow for at least a month until roots grow to the plastic, then I will introduce Phytophthora into the equation.

So you might wonder how these little rhizotrons compare to the larger ones I made earlier this year. Check this out:

Big rhizotron, little rhizotron.

Pretty cute, huh?


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