Ella Goggan
Ella Goggan headshot
Year: 2023

Comparison of Soilless Potting Mixes

In the Plant Growth Facility at BTI, different potting mixes are used to grow plants for experimentation and analysis. Components of these bagged potting medias used at BTI are non-renewable and have become increasingly difficult to source, namely vermiculite and peat. Consequently, a need was developed to find renewable replacements for many of these mixes. Five currently available mixes were compared to four new ones, totaling nine different medias to be tested. Three varieties of common research plants, Arabidopsis thaliana, Nicotiana benthamiana, and Solanum lycopersicum were grown across two different experiments. In the first test, plants were placed inside a growth chamber set to 23°C, 50% RH, and a 16-hour photoperiod. Days to germination, plant height and width were recorded. Secondarily, four replicates of Arabidopsis thaliana plants in each soil were placed in a similar chamber, and were placed under raspberry pi driven cameras for phenotyping. Images of these plants were taken every 30 minutes over the course of nine days. The goal of this was to see and record the difference in leaf area over time, to determine which soils yielded the biggest and healthiest leaves. Preliminary results show that BM2 germination mix yielded the widest Arabidopsis thaliana plants, while BM2 NF WOOD yielded the smallest. In Nicotiana benthamiana, days to germination was the most in soil SS#8. In Solanum lycopersicum, plants in BM2 HP NF WOOD, BM2 NF WOOD, and BM2 WOOD, were slowest to germination, and the fastest were BK 25+ and the Cornell mix.

Throughout my time in the Workforce Advantage Program, one of the many new skills that I had the opportunity to develop was an understanding of the research process. With the help of my mentor, I was able to conduct and carry out an experiment of my own. I learned to execute the different steps of my plant research project, and I developed a routine of checking and tending to my media. I had the help of all of the Plant Growth Facility Staff, who were instrumental in my success. During my time working, I was able to explore more facets of biology, even with everyday greenhouse tasks and responsibilities. I had the privilege to interact with an array of people in different professions related to plant biology, which was advantageous in helping me decide what I want to further study in the future.