The University of Guam has conducted a study involving the traditional plastic pots used in nursery settings determine the effect they have on tree roots.
It’s common knowledge for those in the green industry that if a tree is left in a smooth-sided container for too long, the roots will begin to circle around until it strangles the root system and tree.
The researchers focused on determining the after-effects of this inferior root morphology. The group studied whether root quantity or quality would increase with copper-treated or air-pruning containers compared with traditional containers.
The experiments revealed that majority of the root growth occurred in the bottom of the traditional container, leaving a scarcity of lateral roots. It was also discovered that air-pruning encouraged the most lateral root growth.
Lateral roots are crucial for stabilizing plants facing strong winds from natural disasters, such as hurricanes. According to the study, which was published on Phys.org, plants with woody stems and roots grown in containers are particularly susceptible to damage and are likely to have limited growth and quality.
Yet, certain species’ deformed root systems are able recover once transplanted into soil.
Because some plants can recover and some cannot, the researchers plan to investigate species-specific responses and measure the damage traditional containers cause to the roots of nursery plants.
There are advantages and disadvantages to traditional containers, but this research suggests that air-pruning containers may be the better choice.