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Plant Growth Center User Manual

College of Ag Plant Growth Center User Manual


To provide optimum research environments in support of Purdue plant science research


To be the best university controlled-environment center in the country

About the Center

Thirty-three chambers were originally purchased in 1998-9 and installed in three areas of the Agriculture campus as part of a decentralized multi-user center. The funds were obtained through a $450 K National Science Foundation MRI grant plus equivalent matching funds from Purdue University. The P.I.s on the grant were from the Dept. Of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture (HLA): Drs. Cary Mitchell and Randy Woodson. Due to the success of this center, 3 more chambers in Horticulture Greenhouse (HGRH), 28 chambers and 30 light racks in Whistler Agricultural Research Building (WSLR) and the Whistler greenhouse were “folded into” the center in July, 2005. The 31 added chambers, from 3 to 15 years old, were bought by researchers with their own research funds.

The "center," as it will be referred to in this manual, is 64 chambers and associated equipment in three buildings. In HGRH, 6 Conviron reach-in chambers in the first floor N-S corridor, 8 Conviron reach-in chambers in the basement, and 3 reach-in Percival chambers in rm 1100.

In WSLR, 10 reach-in Percival chambers and 20 lighted growth racks in rooms S006-S040 of the sub-basement, 10 reach-in Percival chambers and one walk-in growth chambers in room B017, and 10 reach-in chambers of various models and sizes in room 141. Also in room 141 are growth racks for drying down Arabidopsis plants for seed collection. The center also includes the 600 sq foot greenhouse attached to the south side of the WSLR building and its associated work rooms.

Eight reach-in chambers are located at the Lilly Greenhouse Service Building (LILY). One chamber is located in the containment lab in the second floor of Lilly Hall of Life Science.

The center does NOT include equipment installed in labs or areas not described above.

Center managers in the departments of HLA and Botany and Plant Pathology (BPP) jointly manage the chambers.

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Overview of Services

The center team programs, inspects, maintains, repairs, controls pests and provides sanitation including autoclaving of trash in the center. Investigators are responsible for irrigating experiments in all areas. There is a charge system for using chambers that is detailed later in this manual.

The center will cover costs of removal of faculty-owned equipment that is beyond repair or usefulness. The center will cover costs of approved installations where utilities are readily available.

Center Managers

Rob Eddy, Plant Growth Facilities Manager, HLA Dept:
  • Accountable for the success of the center, including proper functioning of all equipment
  • Manage center to ensure best usage, sanitation, and storage
  • Accountable for recharge record keeping and administration
  • Responsible for setting recharge rates and recommending chamber purchases
  • Accountable for chamber installation
  • Ensure proper functioning and programming of WSLR greenhouse
  • Accountable for space allocation in HGRH
  • Communicating pesticide notices and other events to users
Rob Eddy, Plant Growth Facilities Manager
Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Dept.
Office (HGRH 1139C): 49-63710
Cell: 412-1080

Debra Lubelski, Plant Growth Facilities Coordinator, BPP Dept:
  • Assists Rob Eddy in responsibilities above
  • Accountable for recharge record-keeping of Lilly portion of the center
  • Accountable for space allocation in Lilly
  • Manages usage of these areas to ensure best usage and storage
  • Accountable for chamber programming, pest control, sanitation, routine maintenance, ordering supplies for LILY portion of the center
  • Communicating pesticide notices and other events to users
  • Allocating space in chambers, light racks, and greenhouse in WSLR area of the center
  • Accountable for recharge record-keeping of WSLR portion of the center
  • Accountable for growth chamber and light rack programming, pest control, sanitation, routine maintenance, ordering supplies for WSLR portion of the center
  • Communicating pesticide notices and other events to users
Debra Lubelski, Plant Growth Facilities Coordinator
Botany and Plant Pathology Dept.
Phone: 49-44663
Cell: 404-3146
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Center User Responsibility

Users share responsibility for plant quality with the center team. Users should take the primary role in monitoring and maintaining their crops, including:
  • Planning space needs and supply needs in advance
  • Filling out request forms for space in center
  • Spacing plants properly
  • Watering crops
  • Monitoring for insects and diseases, in addition to center team
  • Keeping growth areas and work areas sanitary and orderly
  • Terminating experiments on termination date and discarding plants
  • Acquiring approval prior to moving any equipment into center areas

Recharge System

In order to maintain the chambers in good working order, investigators will be accessed a fee based upon the length of occupancy and the square footage of the chamber. These funds will be used to provide periodic maintenance, cover repair costs and lamp replacement, and pay for management and pest control. The charge will vary depending upon the chamber size, capability and condition.

Requesting Space in the Center

To request space, investigators must turn in a request form. These forms are available from Rob, Nolan or Bradford, and can be turned in to either manager. Forms are available on our website and can be printed and mailed back to us. On-line forms are acceptable if the email comes from the computer of the faculty approving the costs, in lieu of signature. The form must be completely filled out to be considered.

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Prioritizing Allocation of Space in the Center

Priority will be given to investigations that 1) require specialized environments and 2) are part of a sponsored research project. In addition, assignments will be made to permit efficient utilization of growth chambers and to accommodate a large number of investigators. For example, a project requiring only 2 weeks would take priority over one requiring 6 months, even if space for the longer experiment was requested first. Six months will be the longest allocation granted at one time, after which the investigator must apply for renewal.

Chamber Operating Ranges

The specs below are for the 33 chambers originally purchased in 1998-9. This list does not include the other chambers folded in to the center in July, 2005, as there are too many to list or the specs are unknown.

All chambers except Conviron PGR-15s have fluorescent and incandescent lamps for illumination. PGR-15s have metal halide, high pressure sodium and incandescent lamps. PGR-15s have no humidity control due to low operating temperatures that would freeze humidification systems. All other chambers have humidification but no air driers, so low humidity settings are subject to ambient humidity. Roughly, the lowest humidity is 35% RH during winter and if temperature setpoint is not below 20° C. Under most conditions, relative humidity of 85-95% is achievable in all chambers except PGR-15s.

Conviron EF7
  • 4° C to 45° C +/- 0.1° C with no lights on.
  • 10° C to 45° C +/- 0.2° C with all lights on.
  • Light intensity one meter below lights 330-425 µmol/m2/sec in increments of 25%
Conviron E8
  • 4° C to 45° C +/- 0.1° C with no lights on.
  • 10° C to 45° C +/- 0.2° C with all lights on.
  • Light intensity one meter below lights 590-710 µmol/m2/sec in increments of 25%
Conviron E15
  • 4° C to 45° C +/- 0.1° C with no lights on.
  • 10° C to 45° C +/- 0.2° C with all lights on.
  • Light intensity one meter below lights 980-1470 µmol/m2/sec in increments of 12.5%
Conviron PGR-15
  • -25° C to 10° C +/- 0.5° C with no lights on.
  • -5° C to 10° C +/- 1.0° C with half lights on.
  • 10° C to 45° C +/- 1.0° C with all lights on.
  • Light intensity one meter below lights 980-1470 µmol/m2/sec in increments of 12.5%
Percival AR-75L
  • 2° C to 44° C +/- 0.5° C with no lights on.
  • 10° C to 44° C +/- 1.0° C with all lights on.
  • Light intensity at shelf below lights 150-300 µmol/m2/sec in increments of 25%

The chambers can be programmed for temperature ramping between day/night settings. Lights can be programmed to turn on/off incrementally to simulate sunrise/sunset. Convirons can be programmed to chain different programs together to create varying conditions on different days.

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Users in the HORT and LILY areas of the center will rely on supply systems of their respective greenhouses. WSLR supplies will include soil mixes, fertilizer, pest control and monitoring supplies (applied by team), lamps for chambers and racks, commonly used pots and trays, hoses, watering cans, etc., sanitation supplies such as paper towels, garbage bags, etc.

Storage of Supplies and Chemicals

Storage in center is limited and we must be vigilant to avoid the accumulation of items too often seen in multi-user facilities. HORT and LILY researchers will continue to rely on storage of their respective greenhouses. Do not use chambers or nearby sinks or counters to store items overnight or longer, especially chemicals. We will remove or discard such items as we find them, without notice. You may need to purchase lockable cabinets if you need to secure items in common storage areas.

Room S016 in the WSLR sub-basement will be used for storage of large items from greenhouse and chamber center. No items other than empty carts may be stored in corridor of WSLR center areas.

All containers should be labeled, including those containing only water. Pesticides for research use—either concentrated or in final solution (such as herbicides for screening)--can not be stored in the greenhouse or chamber center. They should be stored properly in a laboratory hood and brought to the center for application only. Nutrient solutions can be stored in water-resistant tubs with secured lids. Dry fertilizers must be stored in plastic containers with lids, not bags.

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The center is a work place, not a show place, but orderliness is still expected of all users. The center team and Building Services also clean, but could never keep up if users don’t share responsibility. Failure to keep a sanitary, orderly growth area may result in loss of center team services or space in the center. Users are also responsible for keeping the center sanitary by cleaning up:

  • work tables after potting
  • carts after transport
  • under floors and on benches during experiments and after terminating experiment
  • inside growth chambers and coolers during experiments and after terminating experiment
  • sinks after use
  • corridor floors if soiled by transporting your plants


Keys to WSLR and LILY areas for weekend access should be requested from Building Deputies, Scott Charlesworth (49-44596) and Ed Stath (49-48079), respectively. Keys for HGRH can be requested from Eric Whitehead (49-41355). For HGRH, visit Forms and Downloads page to print off form..

Plant/Cutting Inspection

Plants or cuttings from the field, other growing facilities, or commercial sources must be checked by center personnel for pests before being placed in growing areas. Moving plants from one area of the center to another is responsible for many pest infestations that have ruined experiments.

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Spacing Plants

Plants should be spaced properly on the greenhouse bench or in growth chamber to allow for air movement and access by center team to scout and spray.

"No Pesticide" Experiments

Some investigations require that no pesticides be applied, such as for surface wax research or insect-plant interactions. Our advice is that these experiments are best conducted in an area that is not multi-user such as this center. Consult with the center team before placing these experiments in the chambers. We will do our best to help you succeed, but we can't allow infestations that may occur in one experiment to risk the success of others' research by the infestation spreading. Center Managers have the authority to authorize pest control on any experiment for the good of the research community in the center.

Collections, "Pet Plants," and Other Long-Term Crops

Space in the center should be used actively to fulfill a teaching, outreach or research mission. Plants should not be kept longer than necessary in the center, particularly if they’ve completed their life cycle and are not actively growing. Insects and disease really become a problem on these plants, plus space is kept unavailable for active work. Managers have authority to set termination dates for plants in the center and to discard plants in violation of this policy.


Center users are responsible for determining what university safety regulations apply to their work in the facilities, and for compliance. Faculty are accountable for their staffs safety compliance and their staff receiving applicable safety training. The same policies toward glove contamination and labeling chemicals apply in the center as they do in other labs.

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Pesticide Safety

The center team is responsible for operating the center in a safe manner, including Worker Protection Standards (WPS) compliance and our handling of pesticides and other chemicals in accordance with all federal, state, local and university regulation. This is a particular challenge in a center available to its users 24 hours a day, and so requires a great deal of communication and cooperation. We are committed to making information available about what chemicals we use and when. Central Information Stations are in place in WSLR, HORT and LILY.

Notices of pesticide applications will be posted on doors of affected areas, including what areas are affected and time of application. EPA-approved NO ENTRY signs will always be on doors of treated areas, meaning the restricted access is currently in effect. These will be taken down shortly after the label-designated period of restriction is over. In many cases, early entry requirements will also be posted. Often entry is allowed without PPE as long as there is no contact with plants.

Likewise, center users must inform manager or greenhouse technician prior to chemical applications of herbicides, fungicides and other regulated chemicals to ensure compliance with all appropriate regulations. Most often, this means signs posted and area restrictions.

Repeated violations these policies will result in the door being locked following any application in their area or loss of allocation.

Policy Violations

Users of the facility are responsible for learning and following these policies. The Manager will communicate policies and remind users when they are in violation. Policies can be changed when they are no longer appropriate, or when a better solution is proposed. Repeated, deliberate violations of these policies may result in greenhouse services being suspended for that user or a reduction in allocated space.

When Things Go Wrong

Things do go wrong when human beings care for perishable products in the dynamic environment of a greenhouse or growth chamber. When things go wrong with a manager's performance, you can tell them directly. You can also contact Dept. Heads Ed Ashworth (HLA) and Ray Martyn (BPP) to whom they report.

Contacting Managers

You can contact the managers in person, by phone, voicemail, email, memo, note or pager. Email is preferred unless problem is vital. This will limit interruptions in tasks and provide a written record.

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