What is Air Pruning

Posted on February 10, 2021 by Red Rock Block

A Cut Above the Rest: Air Pruning the Precise Method to Root Zone Control

air-pruningThe invention of the commercial greenhouse was one of the greatest achievements in plant cultivation as it extended the growing season and provided a grower the opportunity to produce plants outside of the standard growing areas and times. With the ability to control light, temperature, water, and more in the greenhouse a grower can truly control every aspect of a plant’s life. Not only does this give a grower the ability to provide perfect growing conditions, it also allows them to produce more with less space and resources. This aspect is especially important as the industry tries to meet demand while still making a profit and meeting the quality standards of produced goods.

However, a major concern for cultivators who grow in standard plastic or ceramic plant pots is overall root structure.  In these confined pots, the plant can easily become root bound leading to distress and eventual death of a plant if it is not solved in a timely manner.  In a traditional greenhouse with standard pots, a grower would need to provide differing sizes of pots throughout the growing cycle to accommodate the growing root systems. This can be a laborious task and take time away from other important matters. Thankfully there are other methods of controlling and improving the root zone for plants in a commercial operation.

Air Pruning

Air pruning is a natural method of root zone control that can safely and effectively control a rowdy root system that is trying to overtake a potting system. When a root is exposed to the air outside of the growing medium, the root will dry out causing the root to cut off at the surface of the media. These roots are essentially burned off. These roots once ‘burned’ will produce new and healthy roots. If these roots are not exposed to the air, then they will multiply and develop into a strong and healthy root system able to better support the plant and anchor it in place.

Air Pruning Systems

flowering-stonewool-grow-mediaThere are many advantages to using a air pruning system for plants. Whether the grower should implement the system is all based on plant needs, operational goals and abilities, as well as overall needs of the operation. These systems are low-cost and efficient for methods of propagating cuttings, seedlings, or container plants. Without air pruning, plants later installed into a landscape or later sold to a customer for replanting into the ground or in another container will eventually die or become stunted.

This is part of the prevention of root bound and tangled roots by the air. Roots that are not tangled tightly or bound into a tight shape of the container outperform those that are.  Damaged root systems also cause the yellowing of leaves and the loss of overall greenery later in life. When a plant has healthy, well-branched root systems the plant is able to uptake water more efficiently and increase their growth over a period of time. Before installation or transplanting for later stages of the growth cycle, air pruning can extend the life of smaller pots and plugs, or plant bands. This allows a grower to have more time and space for plant production.

Advantages of Air Pruning

  • Promotes larger and more branched root systems
  •  Encourages new growth
  •  Prevents root bound and spiraled roots
  •  Extends the life of pots, plugs, and plant bands

Effectively Utilizing an Air-Pruning Bench Set-up For the Commercial Operation

stonewool-grow-blocksOnce a grower identifies the specific needs and goals of the operation, the utilization of an installed air pruning bench can be fully undergone. These air-pruning benches can be installed either in the growing area or outside the growing area based on operation needs and overall design. If installed in an enclosed space, the grower needs to be aware that humidity and air flow are essential to the success of the bench.

Watering the plants installed into the bench should be done from above manually through sprayers or through a drip-line as to not flood the system. Seeds or cuttings should be propagated into standard stonewool plugs or plant bands to offer the best support for plant health and growth. This is because roots can be easily air pruned below and for the more environmentally conscious grower, the paper pots can easily degrade once planted in the outdoor setting. Moisture levels need to be maintained and controlled with a watchful eye to promote healthy roots and fully utilize the air pruning bench.

If the system is installed and operating efficiently, there should be no visible roots on the underside or lateral sides of plants. If roots are visible, air flow may need to be increased and/or decreasing the humidity levels.  There are many different designs for air pruning benches that can be customized specifically to each growing operation’s needs. This is important to consider as no two operations are the same. Customization is an important factor to any greenhouse.  For more information or recommendations for air pruning benches for design, install, maintenance, or more contact a helpful RedRock Block representative today. With decades of combined knowledge in the commercial greenhouse industry, it should come to no surprise that growers can be fully supported and allows for the best possible season of growth.

In need of high quality industrial food and crop grade grow media? RedRock Block, a North American manufacturer of stonewool grow media, offers several complete lines of premium-grade grow media fit for commercial and industrial crop production systems, indoor farms, CEA and  hydroponic facilities,and large-scale greenhouses. Click here for more information about RedRock Blocks North-American sourced and manufactured stonewool grow media- https://www.redrockblock.com/shop/

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