No Evidence of Adverse Effects on Germination, Emergence, and Fruit Yield due to Space Exposure of Tomato Seeds

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Seeds of `Rutgers California Supreme' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) were exposed to outer space conditions aboard the long duration exposure facility (LDEF) satellite in the space exposed experiment developed for students (SEEDS) project of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Seeds aboard the LDEF were packed in dacron bags forming four layers per sealed canister. Some of these seeds were used in Oklahoma and Florida for studies of germination, emergence, and fruit yield. Among all measured variables in three experiments, there was only one significant main effect of canister 2 versus canister 7 (for mean time to germination) and only one main effect of layer (for seedling shoot dry weight). There also were only two inconsistent canister x layer interactions in the germination tests. The contrast of Earth-based control seed versus space-exposed seed was significant four times: in Oklahoma in 1991 the mean time to germination of space-exposed seeds and the days to 50% of final germination were 0.7 days less than for Earth-based seeds, and in Florida in 1992 seedling percent emergence and shoot dry weight were increased by space exposure. Fruit yield and marketability were unaffected in plants grown from space-exposed seeds. These results support student findings from the SEEDS project, and provide evidence that tomato seeds can survive in space for several years without adverse effects on germination, emergence, and fruit yield.

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