Manipulation of Plant Density to Enhance Rice Yield for a Bioregenerative Life-support System

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  • 1 NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN 479071165

Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is a candidate crop for use in Controlled Ecological Life-support Systems (CELSS) proposed for a lunar or Mars outpost. `Ai-Nan-Tsao' is a promising semi-dwarf cultivar because growth volume is limited and HI (percent edible biomass) is high. Yield efficiency rate (YER: g grain/m3 per day [g nonedible biomass]-) combines edible yield rate (EYR: g grain/m3 per day) and HI to quantify edible yield in terms of penalties for growth volume, cropping time, and nonedible biomass production. Greenhouse studies indicate EYR increases with plant density from 70 to 282 plants/m2. YER and shoot HI are stable across this density range because nonedible biomass accumulation keeps pace with edible. Tiller number and panicle size per plant decreased with increasing plant density, but total tiller and panicle number per unit area increased to compensate. Density trials in rigorously controlled environments will determine if higher plant densities will produce even greater YER. This research is supported by NASA grant NAGW-2329.

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