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Guodong Liu, D. Marshall Porterfield, Yuncong Li and Waldemar Klassen

Large and/or aged seeds are prone to hypoxic conditions during germination. Germination of selected vegetable seeds including corn (Zea mays L.), squash (Cucurbita pepo L.), and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) was studied in water with different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) solution ranging from 0, 0.06% to 3.0% (v/v) or in aeroponics, all with 0.5 mm CaSO4. Imbibition, oxygen consumption, proton extrusion, and alcohol dehydrogenase (ADHase) activity of corn seeds were measured gravimetrically, electrochemically, and colorimetrically as appropriate. The results showed that 0.15% H2O2 provided the optimum oxygen concentration for seed germination. The germination percentage of aged corn seeds treated with H2O2 was significantly greater than those without H2O2 treatment. Corn embryo orientation in relation to a moist substrate also significantly impacted oxygen bioavailability to the embryo and hence ADHase activity. Corn seeds without H2O2 imbibed significantly more slowly than those with oxygen fortification by 0.15% H2O2. Increased oxygen bioavailability improved the metabolism of the seeds, which extruded 5-fold more protons from the embryos. Each treated embryo consumed twice the amount of oxygen as compared with the untreated one and likewise for treated and untreated endosperms. Increased oxygen bioavailability may be used to improve production of the tested crops. The results from this research imply that consideration should be given to including oxygen fortification in seed coatings for aged seeds and for large seeds regardless of age. The artificial provision of bioavailable oxygen might be effective in rescuing the germplasm in aged seeds in plant breeding and in crop production.

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D. Marshall Porterfield, Mary E. Musgrave and Thomas W. Dreschel

A ground-based comparison of plant nutrient delivery systems that have been developed for microgravity application was conducted for dwarf wheat (Triticum aestivum L. `Yecora Rojo') and rapid-cycling brassica (Brassica rapa L. CrGC#1-33) plants. These experiments offer insight into nutrient and oxygen delivery concerns for greenhouse crop production systems. The experiments were completed over a 12-day period to simulate a typical space shuttle-based spaceflight experiment. The plant materials, grown either using the porous-tube nutrient delivery system, the phenolic foam support system, or a solidified agar nutrient medium, were compared by plant-growth analysis, root zone morphological measurements, elemental composition analysis, and alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme activity assay. The results of these analyses indicate that the porous tube plant nutrient delivery and the phenolic foam systems maintain plant growth at a higher level than the solidified agar gel medium system. Root zone oxygenation problems associated with the agar system were manifested through biochemical and morphological responses. The porous tube nutrient delivery system outperformed the other two systems on the basis of plant growth analysis parameters and physiological indicators of root zone aeration. This information is applicable to the current crop production techniques used in greenhouse-controlled environments.