A modified aeroponic system for growing small-seeded legumes and more to study roots

Various growth systems are available for studying plant root growth and plant–microbe interactions, including hydroponics and aeroponics. Although some of these systems work well with Arabidopsis thaliana and smaller cereal model plants, they may not scale up as well for use with hundreds of plants at a time from a larger plant species.

The aim of this study is to present step-by-step instructions for fabricating an aeroponic system, also called a “caisson,” that has been in use in several legume research labs studying the development of symbiotic nitrogen-fixing nodules but for which detailed directions are not currently available. The aeroponic system is reusable and is adaptable for many other types of investigations besides root nodulation.

An aeroponic system that is affordable and reusable was adapted from a design invented by French engineer René Odorico. It consists of two main components: a modified trash can with a lid of holes and a commercially available industrial humidifier that is waterproofed with silicon sealant.

The humidifier generates a mist in which plant roots grow, suspended from holes in the trash can lids. Results from the use of the aeroponic system have been available in the scientific community for decades; it has a record as a workhorse in the lab.

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