As the 2016 growing season comes to a close in Montana, here in the lab we aren’t preparing to overwinter just yet. In the last few weeks, I have been setting up my first greenhouse trial to expand upon the work we were doing in the field. My ongoing project is to look at changes in microbial diversity in response to climate change. The greenhouse trial will expand on that by looking at the potential legacy effects of soil diversity following climate change, as well as other agricultural factors.
First, though, we had to prep all of our materials, and since we are looking at microbial diversity, we wanted to minimize the potential for microbial influences. This meant that the entire greenhouse bay needed to be cleaned and decontaminated. To mitigate the environmental impact of our research, we washed and reused nearly 700 plant pots and tags in order to reduce the amount of plastic that will end up in the Bozeman landfill.
We also needed to autoclave all our soil before we could use it, to make sure we are starting with only the microorganisms we are intentionally putting in. These came directly from my plots in the field study, and are being used as an inoculum, or probiotic, into soil as we grow a new crop of wheat.
This is trial one of three, each of which has three phases, so by the end of 2016 I’ll have cleaned and put soil into 648 pots with 648 tags; planted, harvested, dried and weighed 11,664 plants; and sampled, extracted DNA from, sequenced, and analyzed 330 soil and environmental samples!
Stay tuned for more updates and results (eventually) from this and my field study!