Trees are necessary and desirable parts of the urban landscape. Their benefits are many and liabilities few. However, some tree species cause significant damage to the urban hardscape (e.g., sidewalks, curbs) posing a safety hazard in and around the home garden and often requiring substantial sums of money to remedy. We propose a new, different and natural approach to solving this problem. Under utilized tree species that do not cause damage to sidewalks and curbs will be identified, selected and propagated. The project will involve short-term approaches (greenhouse / nursery studies of tree seedlings) and long-term approaches (landscape planting and evaluation of selected genotypes).
The experimental work we're conducting in the field requires that we be able to expose the root systems without disrupting or destroying them. To do this we are using a new technique developed by Rob Gross of Dendotech (Calistoga, CA) that uses supersonic air. This technique rapidly expands the soil around the root systems driving it "away" leaving roots less than 2 mm intact. Click here to see this technique in action (via RealVideo that requires a T1 connection for best viewing) and the resulting exposed root systems ready to be measured and/or photographed.
Imagine having the ability to predict the long-term plant physiological responses to the following environmental conditions with a quick (1-3 day) and simple measurement of the base metabolic rate of a small plant tissue sample:
- optimum temperature range for vegetative growth (e.g., matching cultivars to climates)
- minimum/maximum temperature limits
- optimum environmental conditions for seed germination
- nutrient deficiencies/toxicities and their effect on growth
- optimum soil water availability ranges
- salinity - water quality influences on growth
- estimating dormancy state - fulfillment of chilling requirements
- pesticide (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) applications and their effects on growth
The use of microcalorimeters measuring base metabolic heat and respiration rates now provide a way of studying these environmental influences on plant growth. New, solid-state instrumentation provides a means for the study of plant metabolism by measuring metabolic heat rate, carbon dioxide evolution and oxygen consumption (Fontana et al., 1995). The use of microcalorimetry for the study of living plants and tissues has progressed to the point where increasingly complex physiological questions can be asked and potential applications can be tested. Plants can now be examined for properties such as growth rate and tolerances to various environmental stimuli (e.g., temperature, salinity). Short term experiments (1-3 days) can be conducted to predict long-term plant responses to these stimuli. Measurements of heat rates over a range of temperatures on tissues exposed to a variety of environmental conditions can be used to monitor plant responses to multivariate changes in temperature and such factors as water supply or availability of nutrients.
Our most recent paper can be found here.
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