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Air Machine For House Plants
"Housewives are buying them up about as fast as we've been able to stock them," reports a Denver, Colorado retailer, one of the first in the nation to sell the new Plant Nurse, a $15 machine which mechanically injects air into the root zone of potted plants.
"Each time you water the plant, you use the Plant Nurse to aerate the soil for about 15 minutes. This benefits the plant three ways," says Carlos Hamilton, research specialist with the Lockwood Corp., Gering, Neb., manufacturer of the new Plant Nurse aerator:
1. "Injecting air into the soil replaces air lost due to soil compaction.
2. "Since plants "breathe" through their root systems, and watering forces air out, aeration quickly establishes the optimum air-water ratio for healthy growth.
3. "The Plant Nurse stimulates nutrient uptake, allowing the plant to take full advantage of soil nutrients. The result is bigger, faster-growing and more beautiful plants," says Hamilton.
FARM SHOW asked Extension Horticulturalist Deborah Brown at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, about the Plant Nurse air machine. "It sounds like a gimmick to me, but that's off the cuff. I haven't seen the machine or studied the idea," she reported.
Brown noted that "plants do need oxygen and that watering, especially over-watering, can fill the air space in the soil. If a plant is started with a loose soil mixture, including perhaps peat or Perlite, and if the plant is re-potted yearly, there should be no shortage of air and oxygen in the soil. Such a mixture is porous and, as the roots use up water, small vacuums are created that pull in air. "If the soil is compact and so tight that it excludes oxygen, then the best thing to do is repot the plant with new, loose soil," said Brown.
Asked to respond to Brown's comments, Carlos Hamilton, research specialist at Lockwood Corp., agreed that repotting can improve plant performance. "But most people with plants often don't do that very well, and don't repot when necessary. Our Plant Nurse aerator helps overcome the tight soil problem. It does the most good in real tight soil, when it isn't porous enough.
"Housewives often don't have time to take proper care of their plants and often overwater them which is the main reason most plants die. Our aeration machine forces excess water out of the pot's drain holes, and helps restore the oxygen-water balance in the root zone."
Limited soil aeration research has been conducted on field crops. University of Nebraska studies at the Panhandle Research Station in Scottsbluff has shown " a mixed bag of results, but nothing extremely positive when the root zones of field corn and potatoes were mechanically aerated," reports Dean Yonts, irrigation research specialist. He notes that two years of experimentation on the idea has shown very little effect on field corn. "Growth of the root systems was better in the aerated plots than the non-aerated, but we didn't see any significant difference in either corn grain or forage yield."
Test plots were 1/4 to 1/2 acre in size.
With potatoes, Nebraska experiments again showed no increase in yield, but there was a quality improvement in aerated plots fewer growth cracks in the potatoes themselves, making them better for manufacturing chips, says Yonts. He feels the idea of aerating soil around plants may have potential for house plants, but probably not for field crops: "The cost would be pretty high, in terms of installing aeration systems and the equipment and power to pump air into large areas of ground, and probably not economically feasible unless drastic yield increases could be achieved."
For more information on the new Plant Nurse aerator, which sells for $15, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lockwood Corp., P.O. Box 160, Gering, Neb. 69341 (ph 308 436-5051).

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1981 - Volume #5, Issue #2