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Published: 2022-12-06

UPSC researchers get more space for growing plants

NEWS Last Friday, Göran Ericsson, Dean of the Faculty of Forest Sciences from SLU, and Mikael Elofsson, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology from Umeå University, inaugurated the new growth facility at Umeå Plant Science Centre. This extension of the current facility was needed to meet the increasing demand for controlled plant growth conditions and is highly appreciated by the researchers.

Text: Anne Honsel

Since its inception more than twenty years ago, Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) has grown massively, hosting currently more than thirty research groups and about 200 people. The demand for controlled plant growth conditions increased constantly during this time and will likely grow further with additional group leaders set to join in 2023. The usage of the available growing space was continuously optimised but could not meet the demand anymore so that the UPSC board decided in 2019 to extend the current growth facility.

The best solution was to reconstruct an entire floor

“We considered different possibilities, but in the end, the best solution was to reconstruct an entire floor to make space for the new growth facility,” explains Johannes Hanson, coordinator of the rebuilding project. “When thinking on growth facilities you might expect a greenhouse, but we will only have growth cabinets in the new facility. They need less space than our current growth rooms so that we can use the available space more economically and we can also offer more versatile growth conditions that can be individually adjusted to the needs.”

Space for more than forty growth cabinets

The new growth facility will have space for more than forty growth cabinets. Several were already available at UPSC. They have been now all moved to the new facility and additional cabinets are in the purchase process. Such cabinets allow to control very precisely temperature, carbon dioxide levels, light intensity and humidity - factors that are strongly affecting plant growth. An additional factor is light quality which has a strong effect on photosynthesis but also on many other processes in plants.

“Four of the new cabinets will allow researchers to investigate the impact of specific wavelengths of light on plant growth, a research topic of great interest to several research groups at UPSC. We had similar cabinets before, but they are getting old and need replacement”, says Rishikesh Bhalerao, manager of the UPSC Plant Growth Facility. “Thanks to Kempestiftelserna we can now purchase eleven new cabinets that can be used for growing Arabidopsis and small tree saplings.”

Researchers at UPSC are working mainly with model plants: the annual plant thale cress or Arabidopsis and the poplar/aspen and spruce. The cabinets are located in a contained area which is the prerequisite for working with flowering transgenic plants. This area comprises also space for planting and lab work, a photo station and two stereomicroscopes so that the plants growing in the new facility can be examined in more detail.

Controlled plant growth conditions are very crucial for our research

“We want to offer our researchers the best possible environment and controlled plant growth conditions are very crucial for our research,” says Stefan Jansson, head of the Department of Plant Physiology at Umeå University which is one of the two sister departments of UPSC. “We were lucky that we had room in the budget of our department to fund the reconstruction and it is relieving that we can now reduce some of the pressure, especially for growing Arabidopsis. The next step needed will be to get more and better space for growing trees, especially for poplar.”

For more information about the new Growth Facility at UPSC, please contact: