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A rhizotron is an underground root observation laboratory. It permits the growth and behavior of plant roots to be monitored, non-destructively, along a plate glass observation window while the above ground portions of the plant are exposed to field envirnomental conditions. The first rhizotrons were constructed in the early 1900's. The prototype for most present day facilities was constructed in 1963 at East Malling, Kent, England. Over the past 30 years, several rhizotrons in various parts of the world have been constructed. Today, very few of these facilities remain in active use. The cost of upkeep and laborious, time consuming measurement of root growth often become prohibative.

The rhizotron facility at the University of Georgia, Athens, GA was completed in 1986. Although the facility is similar to several previously constructed rhizotrons, it does posses several unique design features. First, it consists of three seperate rooms which are entirely below ground level. This includes and observation area or walkway, instrument room and laboratory. The actual observation area consists of two rows of 12 observation chambers. Each chamber is 40 in x 40 in x 6ft deep and is constructed of ¾ inch thick pressure treated fir plywood and 6 inch thick, steel rod reinforced concrete poured cement blocks. The viewing panels of each chamber consists of a single pane of ¾ inch thick tempered plate glass set at a 12.5 degree angle from vertical. To facilitate soil removal from the chambers, two 7.5 in diameter access/drainage holes are located at the bottom of each chamber. A wire screen is positioned on the inside of each chamber over the access hole to contain soil while permitting normal drainage. For soil removal, the screen can be easily removed by pulling it through the hole. The instrument room is approximately 170 square feet and houses various data recording instrumentation. The laboratory is approximately 400 square feet and allows for both wet and dry lab analyses to be conducted.

Since 1986, numerous investigations have been completed in the rhizotron. Studies ranging from the effects of nematodes on soybean root growth to the response of creeping bentgrass to various rates of nitrogen have been completed and published in refereed journals. Today, all the research conducted in the rhizotron involves some aspect or factor influencing turfgrass growth and development. Most recently, the emphasis has been on the effects of wetting agents and biostimulants on turfgrass root growth. Please see list of Research Publications for more information.