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Pot Size Matters: A Meta-analysis Of The Effects Of Rooting Volume On Plant Growth

Hendrik Poorter, Jonas Bühler, Dagmar van Dusschoten, José Climent, Johannes A. Postma

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The majority of experiments in plant biology use plants grown in some kind of container or pot. We conducted a meta-analysis on 65 studies that analysed the effect of pot size on growth and underlying variables. On average, a doubling of the pot size increased biomass production by 43%. Further analysis of pot size effects on the underlying components of growth suggests that reduced growth in smaller pots is caused mainly by a reduction in photosynthesis per unit leaf area, rather than by changes in leaf morphology or biomass allocation. The appropriate pot size will logically depend on the size of the plants growing in them. Based on various lines of evidence we suggest that an appropriate pot size is one in which the plant biomass does not exceed 1 g L–1. In current research practice ~65% of the experiments exceed that threshold. We suggest that researchers need to carefully consider the pot size in their experiments, as small pots may change experimental results and defy the purpose of the experiment.