There are advantages in growing plants under hypobaric (reduced atmospheric pressure) conditions in biomass production for extraterrestrial base or space-flight environments. Elevated levels of the plant hormone ethylene occur in enclosed crop production systems and in space-flight environments—leading to adverse plant growth and sterility. Objectives of this research were to characterize the influence of hypobaria on growth and ethylene evolution of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Buttercrunch). Growth was comparable in lettuce grown under low (25 kPa) and ambient (101 kPa) total gas pressures. However, tip burn occurred under ambient, but not low pressure—in part because of adverse ethylene levels. Under ambient pressure, there were higher CO2 assimilation rates and dark respiration rates (higher night consumption of metabolites) compared to low pressure. This could lead to greater growth (biomass production) of low pressure plants during longer crop production cycles.
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