Space farming: using plant hormones in space

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A new paper has reviewed the use of plant hormones, as a tool for space farming so that food can be produced in extra-terrestrial environments.

Plant biologists at the University of Zurich have shown that plant hormones can be used for space farming, to make food production possible in space. The new paper has been published in Nature today.

What is space farming?

One of the challenges of space exploration is that space farming would be required. The necessity for food production to sustain human space exploration has led to a need for researching plant hormones which can be used to achieve this.

The paper says: “Human-assisted space exploration will require efficient methods of food production. Large-scale farming in presence of an Earth-like atmosphere in space faces two main challenges: plant yield in microgravity and plant nutrition in extraterrestrial soils, which are likely low in nutrients compared to terrestrial farm lands.”

The use of plant hormones

The use of plant hormones for space farming previously did not have enough supporting evidence. The study adds: “To date, mycorrhization has not been assayed in space-like conditions, likely because environmental requirements are difficult to re-create on the International Space Station (ISS) and microgravity conditions are short-lived on parabolic flights.”

The study has now been able to test this on model plants to draw conclusions about the use of plant hormones in extra-terrestrial environments.

The paper concludes that the plant hormones can make space farming possible. The research leader Lorenzo Vorghi commented: In order to get crops such as tomatoes and potatoes to grow in the challenging conditions of space, it is necessary to encourage the formation of mycorrhiza…This seems to be possible using the strigolactone hormone. Our findings may therefore pave the way for successful cultivation in space of the types of plants that we grow on earth.”

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