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Root Lab

Root Laboratory is unique in Europe. Among other things, the laboratory can accelerate the annual cycle of trees and herbaceous plants. Root laboratory platform in Joensuu is part of European AnaEE research infrastructure.

Photo: Eetu Ahanen / Luke.

Root Laboratory

The Root Laboratory in Joensuu, belonging to the AnaEE research network, is a unique research platform and includes an extensive set of equipment developed for whole tree research. It enables research into responses of trees and herbaceous plants to varying and changing environmental conditions, such as soil moisture (waterlogging or drought), air and soil temperature (e.g., soil frost) soil nutrients status or soil type. Air and soil conditions can be controlled independently from each other, and the plants’ annual cycle can be accelerated. The Root Laboratory consist of four walk-in growing rooms (so-called dasotrons) of almost five metres height, each having six growing containers of approx. 150 litres volume. Environmental conditions as well as root and shoot responses can be monitored continuously and/or at specific intervals. This allows detailed studies of root dynamics and shoot responses, and the responses of carbon uptake and its distribution between plant organs to changing environmental conditions.

Air and soil temperatures and moistures, lighting intensity and photoperiod can be controlled and monitored. Growth and phenology of roots and aboveground plant parts are studied using the minirhizotron method (e.g., for assessing root survival and longevity), measuring shoot length and diameter and leaf area, and by determining the biomass of the different plant parts. Plant physiological traits are assessed by measuring gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, chlorophyll index, stem sap flow, plant water potential, the hydraulic conductance of the root system. One special feature is the application of electrical impedance spectroscopy for estimating plant condition and stress. Root morphology is studied by scanning root systems and subsequent software analysis. The concentrations and fluxes of soil gases can be measured, as well. Additionally, there are freezing chambers in cooperation with the University of Eastern Finland to run controlled freezing tests, e.g., to determine plant freezing tolerance and plant damage due to freezing.

Areas of Reasearch

  • Plant acclimatisation and adaptation to variable and changing weather and climatic conditions.
  • Environmental conditions affecting plant growth, production and survival.
  • Carbon cycle and biomass partitioning.