Dispersal is a key component of plant population and community dynamics and the spread of weeds. Although many species of economic concern disperse via tumbleweed mechanisms, our ability to estimate relevant dispersal parameters can be hindered by the lack of a controlled environment that can be provided by a wind tunnel. Established wind tunnels are typically closed-circuit, clean systems and are therefore unsuitable for biological or ecological research. We designed and constructed a wind tunnel to estimate dispersal parameters for diffuse knapweed. Our design was a tunnel that utilizes the Venturi effect to obtain maximum flow velocity while pulling, rather than pushing, air through the test section. Flow velocity was continuously variable from 0 to 8 m/s, and the tunnel was equipped with instrumentation for measuring the force exerted on plants by wind. Our modular design provided a way to effectively estimate key parameters that govern the dispersal of tumbleweeds, and was readily constructed and stored in research facilities.
Nomenclature: Diffuse knapweed, Centaurea diffusa (Lam.) CENDI