Date: March 27, 2001
UVic to Build New High-Tech Greenhouse Facility
Forest biology research at the University of Victoria is about to get a major boost with the addition of a new, high-tech greenhouse facility.
An integrated plant environment facility -- also known as a phytotron -- will be built this summer on the south side of the UVic campus in a small section of parking lot 1. It is expected to be operational by early next year.
The one-level, 603-square metre facility will house six computerized, climate-controlled greenhouses to support the ongoing work of UVic's centre for forest biology -- one of the few research units in B.C. that focuses on forest regeneration processes from seed production through to early stand development. Research areas include tree reproductive biology, embryogenesis, genetics, disease and stress resistance, and tree physiology.
The centre's six faculty members, along with postdoctoral and graduate students, work closely with local forest companies, forest nursery managers, government and industry seed orchards, and biotechnology companies to enhance seedling care and survival before, during and after replanting in the forests.
UVic currently has two "low-tech" greenhouses, both built in 1965. "They're fine for growing plants for teaching but not for advanced research," says Dr. Barbara Hawkins, a tree physiologist with the centre. "They have virtually no environmental control settings and there are too many users needing different conditions."
Other plant research facilities are scattered around campus. "At the moment, people are coping," says Hawkins, "but they're not doing the experiments they want to do because we don't have modern facilities. This phytotron will open up a whole new horizon of research possibilities."
The phytotron greenhouses will mimic -- on a much smaller scale -- the high-tech growth environments used by the forest industry to nurture tree seedlings. Environmental variables will include light, temperature, carbon dioxide, humidity and ventilation, as well as water, electricity and shade curtains. Two larger rooms will feature a nutrient mixing system, an overhead running boom irrigation system and black-out curtains. A service area adjacent to the greenhouses will contain 16 growth chambers currently operating in the biology building, as well as facilities for plant propagation, handling and harvest.
Funding for the project comes from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund, UVic and the private sector.
Dr. Barbara Hawkins (biology), 721-7117
Valerie Shore, UVic communications 721-7641/7636
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