Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plant Hormone Makes Space Farming a Possibility

17.10.2018

With scarce nutrients and weak gravity, growing potatoes on the Moon or on other planets seems unimaginable. But the plant hormone strigolactone could make it possible, plant biologists from the University of Zurich have shown. The hormone supports the symbiosis between fungi and plant roots, thus encouraging plants’ growth – even under the challenging conditions found in space.

The idea has been bounced around for a while now – and not just by the likes of NASA, but also by private entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk: that of one day establishing colonies for people to live on the Moon or on other planets.


Such visions, as well as the prospect of long-term human space expeditions in the future, raise the question of how to sustainably provide food for the people in space. One possible answer is to cultivate crops in situ.

However, the soils on the Moon and on other planets are surely lower in nutrients compared to our agricultural land. The alternative – transporting nutrient-rich soil and fertilizers up into space – comes with a high economic and ecological cost.

Plant-fungal symbiosis promotes plant growth

When looking for a possible solution, the research group working with Lorenzo Borghi of the University of Zurich and Marcel Egli of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts concentrated on the process of mycorrhiza, a symbiotic association between fungi and plant roots.

In this symbiosis, the fungal hyphae supply the plant roots with additional water, nitrogen, phosphates and trace elements from the ground. In return they get access to sugar and fat produced by the plant. This symbiosis is stimulated by hormones of the strigolactone family, which most plants secrete into the soil around their roots. The process of mycorrhization can greatly increase plant growth and thereby substantially improve crop yields – especially in soil that is low in nutrients.

Absence of gravity impedes mycorrhization

In space, cultivated plants would not just have to contend with low-nutrient soil, but also with conditions of microgravity, i.e. almost zero gravity. In order to investigate the influence of such an environment on plant growth, the researchers cultivated petunias and mycorrhizal fungi under simulated low gravity conditions. Petunias provide a model organism for plants of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which include for example tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants.

The experiments revealed that microgravity hindered the mycorrhization and thus reduced the petunias’ uptake of nutrients from the soil. But the plant hormone strigolactone can counteract this negative effect. Plants that secreted high levels of strigolactone and fungi which the researchers had treated with a synthetic strigolactone hormone were able to thrive in the low-nutrient soil despite the microgravity conditions.

Best practice for food production in space

“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,” summarizes research leader Lorenzo Borghi. “This seems to be possible using the strigolactone hormone. Our findings may therefore pave the way for the successful cultivation in space of the types of plants that we grow on Earth.”

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Dr. Lorenzo Borghi
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
University of Zurich
Phone 41 44 634 82 76
E-mail: lorenzo.borghi@uzh.ch

Originalpublikation:

Guowei Liu, Daniel Bollier, Christian Gübeli, Noemi Peter, Peter Arnold, Marcel Egli, Lorenzo Borghi. Simulated microgravity and the antagonistic influence of strigolactone on plant nutrient uptake in low nutrient conditions. Nature Microgravity. October 17, 2018.
DOI: 10.1038/s41526-018-0054-z

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.media.uzh.ch/en/Press-Releases/2018/Space-Farming.html

Rita Ziegler | Universität Zürich

Further reports about: Farming Space crops cultivate crops fungi gravity hormone microgravity mycorrhiza petunias potatoes zero gravity

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Are cover crops negatively impacting row crops?
30.07.2020 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht Space to grow, or grow in space -- how vertical farms could be ready to take-off
14.07.2020 | John Innes Centre

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: ScanCut project completed: laser cutting enables more intricate plug connector designs

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.

Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...

Im Focus: New Strategy Against Osteoporosis

An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...

Im Focus: AI & single-cell genomics

New software predicts cell fate

Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...

Im Focus: TU Graz Researchers synthesize nanoparticles tailored for special applications

“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.

Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...

Im Focus: Tailored light inspired by nature

An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.

Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2020”: The final touches for surfaces

23.07.2020 | Event News

Conference radar for cybersecurity

21.07.2020 | Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rare Earth Elements in Norwegian Fjords?

06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences

Anode material for safe batteries with a long cycle life

06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

06.08.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>