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PLoS One. 2015 May 12;10(5):e0126826. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126826. eCollection 2015.

Design and construction of an inexpensive homemade plant growth chamber.

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Department of Plant Biology, Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America.
Department of Plant Biology, Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America; Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America.


Plant growth chambers produce controlled environments, which are crucial in making reproducible observations in experimental plant biology research. Commercial plant growth chambers can provide precise controls of environmental parameters, such as temperature, humidity, and light cycle, and the capability via complex programming to regulate these environmental parameters. But they are expensive. The high cost of maintaining a controlled growth environment is often a limiting factor when determining experiment size and feasibility. To overcome the limitation of commercial growth chambers, we designed and constructed an inexpensive plant growth chamber with consumer products for a material cost of $2,300. For a comparable growth space, a commercial plant growth chamber could cost $40,000 or more. Our plant growth chamber had outside dimensions of 1.5 m (W) x 1.8 m (D) x 2 m (H), providing a total growth area of 4.5 m2 with 40-cm high clearance. The dimensions of the growth area and height can be flexibly changed. Fluorescent lights with large reflectors provided a relatively spatially uniform photosynthetically active radiation intensity of 140-250 μmoles/m2/sec. A portable air conditioner provided an ample cooling capacity, and a cooling water mister acted as a powerful humidifier. Temperature, relative humidity, and light cycle inside the chamber were controlled via a z-wave home automation system, which allowed the environmental parameters to be monitored and programmed through the internet. In our setting, the temperature was tightly controlled: 22.2°C±0.8°C. The one-hour average relative humidity was maintained at 75%±7% with short spikes up to ±15%. Using the interaction between Arabidopsis and one of its bacterial pathogens as a test experimental system, we demonstrate that experimental results produced in our chamber were highly comparable to those obtained in a commercial growth chamber. In summary, our design of an inexpensive plant growth chamber will tremendously increase research opportunities in experimental plant biology.

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