Primary crucial plant development occurs in the root zone. Indeed, growers have been paying a lot of attention to integrated root zone management (IRM), which describes the production strategy of the interactions between water, nutrients, and substrates, that represent the ground upon which horticultural management decisions are made.
Over the last decade, research has pointed out how each of these parameters is paramount for a strong and healthy growth of the plant. However, none of them is the most important. Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies has been looking into this topic since the company’s inception, trying to further understand the key that would trigger the desired optimal responses from the plant. The company found out, after years of research and trials, that the temperature of the root zone was the most significant parameter for plant development.
Keep 'em warm, keep 'em cool
Following this finding, Roots has developed a technology that allows growers to control the temperature of the root zone to keep it at the optimal temperature according to the stage the plant is at. “Optimal root temperatures are one of the most important conditions that help the plant to maximize the yield, reduce growing cycle period, save energy, help fight diseases and also affect cannabinoid content,” Mark Fishman, agronomist at Roots, explains. “For instance, if the temperature is too cold, availability of phosphorus becomes a problem, as its deficiency prevents an optimal growth. When the temperature are low, a plant has an extremely hard time to function properly, i.e. nutrients won’t be absorbed at all as it is way too cold. On the other hand, if the temperature rises too much, the plant’s stomata will close, thus affecting the photosynthesis and consequentially slowing down the growth of the plant.”
Therefore, it is very much clear that being able to control the temperature of the root zone has a huge impact on cannabis cultivation as a whole. “Keeping the root zone at an optimal temperature year-round would make you able to deal with all kinds of extreme environmental conditions,” Mark remarks. “To make a comparison, the plant doesn’t mind if the leaves get too cold as they might just change color, in the direst scenario. The root zone is where the real magic occurs, and if the temperature is kept optimally then the plant will carry out all those processes that ensure a steady and healthy growth.”
Controlling the root zone
The solution that Roots developed is all about giving growers butter control of what happens underneath the plants. “We have designed different methods to provide growers with control over the root zone,” Mark explains. “With our heat pump technology, growers can warm up or cool down the root zone. This, coupled with our sensors and algorithm, ensures energy efficiency as the system is activated only when necessary.”
Another solution Roots has designed takes advantage of existing heat sources in the soil. “We install round coils down into the ground,” Mark explains. “The temperature down there is constant. Besides, when the temperature outside is low, in the ground is warmth; and when it is warm outside, down there is cold. Our system exploits this by having water circulating down into the coils, where the water exchanges the heat with the ground, and then this water gets discharged near the roots.”
At the same time, these two systems can be combined to control the root zone temperature with even more nuance. “Using both of our technologies allows for a greater control over the exact temperature that a grower wants their root zone to be,” says Mark.
Of course, such a system should be installed before the planting. “It requires some preparation before the planting, but everything has been designed keeping ease of implementation and use in mind. We do all of this because we know what it takes to empower growers with tools that make their plants express their full genetic potential. And we also know that all of this starts from the roots. As we like to say: happy roots, happy shoots!”