Welcome To Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

Root Management Research

Root management in nursery production is of growing interest to tree producers and tree purchasers alike. The reason for this is that the development of a tree’s root system is a critical factor in the ability of a tree to become established in the landscape. The roots secure the tree and stabilize it against wind and other elements. The tree develops strong coarse roots that form the framework for the fine roots, which access water and nutrients, and form relationships with microorganisms. It all starts with soil and roots! Greater understanding about how roots develop, grow and interact with their environment allows for improvements in nursery production practices and tree planting in the landscape.

What's New


Get some insight into our work at Vineland Research & Innovation Centre by checking out our latest video series on the Apple RootSmart Pilot TrialRoot structure is so critical to tree health and longevity, which is why we have been researching how nursery production practices can be improved to help trees become established and mature in our landscapes. If we would like to see long-lived trees in our backyards, parks and streets we need to start thinking about root quality, even at the seedling stage. A transplanting trial is underway and Vineland is evaluating the effects of different propagation trays, including RootSmart™, on root development of trees and wine grape vines after transplanting. Comparing various propagation containers is important because of the formation of coarse structural roots of woody plants early on. Some preliminary results are available from this trial with more to come in 2020.



We have been studying the importance of the structure of roots on woody plants for over five years. Our team found that proper root development begins as soon as the roots start to grow on a newly germinated seed or a cutting stuck in the nursery. Tree roots in natural settings don’t face the obstacles we have created in our nursery production systems, like container walls. When roots hit the smooth impermeable wall of a plastic container, they are deflected and do not extend outward like they would in nature. These misdirected roots should be corrected before the tree is moved to the next container size or planted out in the landscape. If left untreated, the root deflections will persist and can negatively influence tree growth. Based on our extensive research on tree propagation we have developed a propagation tray called RootSmart™ with A.M.A Horticulture, which is now available to growers. For more information on RootSmart™ visit www.rootsmart.com

The pictures below depict some of the stages involved in our propagation tray liner trial. Seedlings were planted in fall 2017 and a subset were dug and analyzed in fall 2018 and 2019. The remaining trees will be dug and analyzed in fall 2020 and 2021. Trees are analyzed for the presence of persistent container defects from the seedling stage, three-dimensional distribution of structural roots and above and below ground growth. 

Lined out seedlings, two growing seasons after planting


Relevant Resources

McGrath et al. 2017 - Effect of Propagation Tray Design on Early Stage Root Development of Acer rubrumQuercus rubra, and Populus tremuloides

Munroe et al. 2018 - Increasing amounts of coir dust in substrates do not improve physical properties or growth of tree seedlings in a novel air-pruning propagation tray

For more information on how nursery production influences tree root systems, explore the University of Florida's Landscape Plants website, which houses work done by Dr. Edward Gilman's research group.