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 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.
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:
Pretty cute, huh?