Cultivating tree seedlings in a container

Growing tree seedlings in a container? Yes, In Northern Italy oak, beech and pine are being grown. The researchers made this prototype growth chamber to show that trees can be cultivated with less water, crop protection products and energy.

The trays in which the seedlings are being cultivated are moving. "This progresses the growth", says biologist Rosaria Santa Maria. "We have several sensors, both in containers and in the growth chamber. These sensors measure the temperature, the humidity and the carbon dioxide. With the computer software we can control the rotational speed in the growth chamber and move the robot. "

The robot is equipped with optical sensors and a camera. So, the researchers can check the growth and health of the small trees easily and at any time. The LED lights provide a day and night cycle in the chamber. "Before we built the growth chamber, we have explored the conditions under which the plants grow best: The ideal temperature and humidity, as well as how much sunlight the trees require", explains biologist Tatiana Marras.

The prototype can be moved easily and the 20 solar panels provide the chamber with energy. Thus, it can also be placed in isolated regions where certain trees are needed for reforestation. Bartolomeo Schirone, dendrologist and coordinator of the project, explains: "Each plant has its own genome. Spanish cork, for example, differs from Italian or French cork. With this prototype, we can grow seedlings and plant them anywhere without risking genetic contamination in any country."

The first growth chambers could come on the market in about six years.


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