Plants are an essential part of long-duration space travel, as they enable food production and contribute to air revitalization through photosynthesis, and water recycling through transpiration. Understanding their growth mechanisms is essential to use them to sustain human life in space. In particular, gas exchange - e.g., CO2 absorption and water transpiration - are modified in microgravity because of the lack of buoyancy-driven convection, and in the long run, this could result in impaired plant growth. Water absorbed by the plants mainly depends on their size and on environmental conditions (air temperature, humidity and ventilation), but in microgravity watering plants is a delicate operation - too much water results in flooded roots and too little water leads in a few hours to wilted plants. This is regularly experienced in the Veggie system on ISS, which enables small-scale food production in microgravity since 2014. This presentation explores how a mechanistic model of plant gas exchange can help predict plant transpiration in Veggie and thus better predict daily watering. For each plant, inputs on canopy leaf area (acquired with daily photos), air temperature and relative humidity in the plant compartment, as well as airspeed at the top of its canopy enable accurate predictions of transpiration in microgravity. This brings a better understanding of water movement through the plant in microgravity in relation to ventilation and plant size and would result in easier management of plant watering in Veggie. Ultimately, this work could be applied to any space crop production in microgravity and be used for water management and yield predictions. This work was funded by NASA Space Biology through NASA postdoctoral program / USRA.
43rd COSPAR Scientific Assembly. Held 28 January - 4 February
- Pub Date:
- January 2021