445 Solid Matrices for Supporting Plant Growth in Space

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  • 1 Dynamac Corporation, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899

In preparation for a spaceflight experiment to measure photosynthesis of wheat (PESTO), four solid media were evaluated for use in the rooting modules of the Biomass Production System (BPS), a new plant growth unit for microgravity. The media were commercial peat-vermiculite (PV) mixture, zeolite developed at Johnson Space (Z/JSC), commercial zeolite developed by Boulder Innovative Technologies (Z/BIT), and arcillite (AR) with slow-release fertilizer. Wheat (cv. USU Super Dwarf) was grown in the media at 1500 μmol/mol CO2, 350 μmol·m-2·s-1 PAR, 23 °C, and 75% relative humidity for 18 to 21 days. Water was delivered to the media through porous tubes imbedded in the media, and NDS pressures of -0.1 to -0.5 kPa were maintained with either a static or recirculating standpipe. Plant height, leaf area, and fresh mass were determined for each experiment. Results indicated that the AR and Z/BIT media resulted in larger and more uniform plants than Z/JSC or PV at the same NDS pressure. Additional experiments were conducted with AR to evaluate interactions between particle size and NDS pressure. At ≈14 days after planting, there was a loss of NDS prime in AR >2.0 mm when the NDS pressure was less than -0.3kPa. This resulted in drying of the media and poor plant growth. There was excess water in the media, which resulted in reduced plant size, in AR <1.0 mm at NDS pressures more than -0.3 kPa.

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