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Life Sciences Greenhouses: Transplanted and Thriving

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Students and faculty in the College of Life Sciences have eagerly awaited completion of the new greenhouse facility. Located at 1000 East and 820 North next to Kiwanis Park in Provo, the new greenhouses offer sophisticated features that will provide enhanced research and educational opportunities. Two isolation, or exclusion rooms, are enclosed with fine nylon mesh screens to keep out insects that spread viruses. A sunken room allows growing specimen trees and taller tropical plants in the ground while an assortment of plants will be grown in maneuverable containers. Landscape Design students will be able to manipulate the plants to create new designs.

The greenhouses consist of four wings, each 30 by 125 feet. Two wings are dedicated to research, one wing as a classroom area, and the other set aside for plant collections. The new facility offers twelve-foot sidewalls, an additional four feet compared to the old greenhouses. This gives growers extra vertical room to grow specialty crops. The outside covering of the greenhouses consists of a double layer of a plastic-like polycarbonate material. “Ribs” between the layers provide strength and “dead air” that acts as insulation from outside heat and cold. A light sensor determines when more or less light is needed, and a shade cloth opens and closes automatically.

One of the most exciting features of the greenhouses actually isn’t in the buildings themselves. Behind the structures are several 30-by-100-foot irrigated research plots that will provide valuable research space for ongoing research projects. Commenting on the significance of these plots, Earl Hansen, the greenhouse director, said, “Many of the projects that will be conducted here would have previously needed to take place at BYU’s farm in Spanish Fork. These new research plots will combine convenience with exceptional resources.”

Planned research projects in the greenhouses vary from studying Andean grain crops to determining the effect that certain minerals have on plant health to experimenting with twenty-five to thirty medicinal plants used around the world.

Eventually, a waterfall and pond will be constructed in one area of the greenhouses, providing a beckoning, quiet place to retreat from everyday stresses. Everyone is welcome, regardless of major.