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The Root Development of Vegetable Crops: Astonishing Illustrations

8/20/2013 4:42:00 PM

Tags: root systems, botanical illustrations, vegetable crops, vegetable roots, John E Weaver

The following information is summarized from the introduction of The Root Development of Vegetable Crops, which is available for free on the Holistic Agriculture Library website.

If you’re as much of a plant nerd as we are, prepare to get absorbed. John E. Weaver, an American botanist, prairie ecologist and Professor at the University of Nebraska, completed a massive project in the year ofOnion Maturing 1927. With the help of his team of assistants, Weaver meticulously illustrated the root development of 34 popular vegetable crops (see the illustration of mature onion roots, right). In the massive undertaking that was partly botanical and partly archeological, Weaver and his team dug trenches approximately 5 feet deep to study the plant’s root systems from the side. The five-foot-deep trench created a big enough expanse onto which the scientists could slowly chisel with hand picks and ice picks to uncover and carefully examine the vegetable’s complicated root systems.

This painstaking work required much patience and expertise. The plants were studied and illustrated at multiple stages of growth in order to best represent general, long-term root habits. Every plant studied was grown in sets of at least three. This was done so that an excavation performed at two weeks of growth would not affect the results of an excavation performed after six weeks or two months. Every set of fragile roots was left undisturbed until it was time to dig.

Drawings of the root systems were made in the field on a large drawing sheet with pencil, and then later retraced with ink. Although the drawings were made on a large scale, the rootlets were often so abundant that it was still impossible to show every detail. In every case, the drawings were made to illustrate the average condition of the roots, rather than the extreme. Accompanying the illustrations are fastidious field notes regarding plant spacing, soil health, crop growth and more.

Weaver’s findings were published in Root Development of Vegetable Crops (1927), the sister publication to Root Development of Field Crops (1926). In 1929 Weaver partnered with ecological pioneer Henry Chandler Cowles to publish the first American ecology textbook.

The following illustrations are all documented on 1-by-1-foot grid lines.

Asparagus 6 Years Asparagus roots, 6 years


Bean roots 1 month Bean roots, 1 month


Bean Roots 2 Months Bean roots, 2 month

s


Bean Roots Surface View Bean roots, surface view, 6 inches


Beet Roots 6 Weeks Beet roots, 6 weeks


Beat Roots 10 Weeks Beet roots, 10 weeks


Beat Roots 35 Months





Beet roots, 3.5 months








Cabbage Roots 55 Days After Transplant



Cabbage roots, 55 days after transplanting





Cabbage Roots 75 Days




Cabbage roots, 75 days after transplanting





Carrot Roots 47 Days








Carrot roots, 47 days











Carrot Roots 77 Days








Carrot roots, 77 days






Carrot Roots Mature










Carrot roots, mature





Cauliflower Roots 3 Weeks




Cauliflower roots, 3 weeks after transplanting





Cauliflower Roots 8 Weeks




Cauliflower roots, 8 weeks after transplanting




Cucumber Roots 4 Weeks




Cucumber roots, 4 weeks




Cucumber Roots 6 Weeks




Cucumber roots, 6 weeks



Cucumber Roots Surface View



Cucumber roots, surface view







Eggplant Roots 7 Weeks




Eggplant roots, 7 weeks







Lettuce Roots 3 Weeks






Lettuce roots, 3 week soil comparison. The roots on the right were grown in compact soil, the roots on the left were grown in loose soil. Avoid planting seedlings in compact soil by following the tips in this article, Care and Cultivation of Permanent Garden Beds.








Lettuce Roots 2 Months





Lettuce roots, 2 months






Onion Seedlings Roots







Onion seedlings of the same age. The one on the right was grown in compact soil, the one on the left in loose soil. Avoid planting seedlings in compact soil by following the tips in this article, Care and Cultivation of Permanent Garden Beds.







Onion Roots 8 Weeks





Onion roots, 8 weeks.








Onion Roots 35 Weeks




Onion roots, 3.5 months







Onion Maturing







Onion roots, mature









Pea Roots 6 Weeks




Pea roots, 6 weeks




Mature Pea Roots




Pea roots, mature




Pepper Roots 24 Days




Pepper roots, 24 days after transplanting




Pepper Roots 6 Weeks




Pepper roots, 6 weeks



Pepper Roots Nearly Mature




Pepper roots, nearly mature




Radish Roots 5 Weeks





Radish roots, 5 weeks






Radish 2 Months





Radish roots, 2 months







Spinach Roots 6 Weeks





Spinach roots, 6 weeks






Spinach Roots 10 Weeks






Spinach roots, 10 weeks








Sweet Corn Roots 16 Days



Sweet corn roots, 16 days


Sweet Corn Roots 8 Weeks




Sweet corn roots, 8 weeks




Sweet Corn Mature Roots




Mature sweet corn roots, view from above





Sweet Potato Roots 23 Days





Sweet potato roots, 23 days after transplanting a root cutting.









Sweet Potato Roots 53 Days




Sweet potato roots, 53 days




Digging Trenches



John E. Weaver and his team of assistants dug trenches approximately 5 feet deep to study the root systems of popular vegetable varieties. 




Follow this link to see the online version of Root Development of Vegetable Crops

Illustrations by John E. Weaver



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