Phytotrons are chambers that provide controlled environmental conditions for growing plants. Phytotrons have been extensively used for research on how various environmental factors affect plant growth and development. However, the CETS phytotrons are designed specifically for the commercial production of AstroTubers™ (potato minitubers), rather than for research purposes. Consequently, the CETS phytotron design places emphasis on reliability, engineering robustness, and above all economical operation not usually found in phytotrons designed and used for research purposes.
The environmental conditions monitored, controlled, and recorded in the CETS phytotrons include:
- light period schedule
- light period duration
- temperature during the light period
- temperature during the dark (no light) period.
- Humidity is maintained above a specified level.
CETS Phytotron - A Controlled Potato Minituber Production Environment.
Light is provided by LEDs (light emitting diodes) defined specifically after extensive evaluation for the growth, development, and tuberization of potato plants. Use of such LED units significantly reduces power consumption compared to any other light source that may be used for plant growing purposes and increases Astrotuber yields. LED lifespan is over 50 thousand hours, longer than any other light sources.
Water and nutrients are provided as foliar sprays, with frequency and duration specified during the light period and the dark period.
Temperature and humidity set points and control ranges can be independently specified during both the light and dark periods.
Recording of the environmental parameters is done at specified intervals. Such records are available for review at any time and can be moved to other media for various analyses as may be desired by the operator.
A distinct characteristic of well designed phytotrons is that the internal environmental conditions specified by the operator are totally independent of the external environmental conditions. For example, a temperature defined for conditions internal to the phytotron would be maintained independently from the external environmental conditions in any geographic region and any seasonal condition of the geographic region.
The profound impact that light intensity and photoperiod have on plant growth and development are well documented. They are significant factors when plants are grown in greenhouses or tunnels and invariably impact plant growth and potato tuber yields due to their naturally occurring condition such as cloudy days and seasonal changes in duration of sunlight. These light limiting conditions do not exist in a phytotron where these environmental variables are operator controlled.
This characteristic of using phytotrons compared to other types of housing used for growing plants reduces the initial and maintenance costs incurred in the type of building used to house the phytotrons. Also, the phytotrons can be operated all year compared to greenhouses or tunnels that can not be operated during the hot and cold times of the year. However if operated during these times greenhouses or tunnels must be equipped with costly temperature control equipment, including costly operational requirements. During the seasonal high temperature periods, the environment external to the phytotron can be cooled by convection rather than by more expensive mechanical refrigeration.
In geographic regions having seasonal temperatures that go below 0° C (32° F), the conditions external to the phytotron must be maintained above these temperatures to avoid freezing of the nutrient solution and any other water sources in the vicinity of the phytotron.
Phytotrons are being used for growing a vast number of plant species, mostly in research applications. The CETS phytotron can likewise be modified to produce other plant materials in addition to AstroTubers™ (potato minitubers). CETS phytotrons can be considered for growing other plant material with modification to accommodate specific plant characteristics, for example height or nutrient requirements..
CETS is available for consultation if a specific commercial plant production or research need, other than production of AstroTubers would be enhanced by the use of a CETS phytotron.