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Desmond G. Mortley, Conrad K. Bonsi, Walter A. Hill, Carlton E. Morris, Carol S. Williams, Ceyla F. Davis, John W. Williams, Lanfang H. Levine, Barbara V. Petersen, and Raymond M. Wheeler

commonly used in the propagation of sweetpotato. Although seeds of several crops have been grown in microgravity and their growth compared with ground-based controls ( Cowles et al., 1994 ; Levine and Krikorian, 1991 ), plants that have been propagated

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Christopher S. Brown, William M. Cox, Thomas W. Dreschel, and Peter V. Chetirkin

A nutrient delivery system that may have applicability for growing plants in microgravity is described. The Vacuum-Operated Nutrient Delivery System (VONDS) draws nutrient solution across roots that are under a partial vacuum at ≈91 kPa. Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L. cv. Blue Lake 274) plants grown on the VONDS had consistently greater leaf area and higher root, stem, leaf, and pod dry weights than plants grown under nonvacuum control conditions. This study demonstrates the potential applicability of the VONDS for growing plants in microgravity for space biology experimentation and/or crop production.

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M.E. Musgrave, A. Kuang, L.K. Tuominen, L.H. Levine, and R.C. Morrow

Although plants are envisioned to play a central role in life support systems for future long-duration space travel, plant growth in space has been problematic due to horticultural problems of nutrient delivery and gas resupply posed by the weightless environment. Iterative improvement in hardware designed for growth of plants on orbital platforms now provides confidence that plants can perform well in microgravity, enabling investigation of their nutritional characteristics. Plants of B. rapa (cv. Astroplants) were grown in the Biomass Production System on the International Space Station. Flowers were hand-pollinated and seeds were produced prior to harvest at 39 days after planting. The material was frozen or fixed while on orbit and subsequently analyzed in our laboratories. Gross measures of growth, leaf chlorophyll, starch and soluble carbohydrates confirmed comparable performance by the plants in spaceflight and ground control treatments. Analysis of glucosinolate production in the plant stems indicated that 3-butenylglucosinolate concentration was on average 75% greater in flight samples than in ground control samples. Similarly, the biochemical make-up of immature seeds produced during spaceflight and fixed or frozen while in orbit was significantly different from the ground controls. The immature seeds from the spaceflight treatment had higher concentrations of chlorophyll, starch, and soluble carbohydrates than the ground controls. Seed protein was significantly lower in the spaceflight material. Microscopy of immature seeds fixed in flight showed embryos to be at a range of developmental stages, while the ground control embryos had all reached the premature stage of development. Storage reserve deposition was more advanced in the ground control seeds. The spaceflight environment thus influences B. rapa metabolite production in ways that may affect flavor and nutritional quality of potential space produce.

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Hideyuki Takahashi, Christopher S. Brown, Thomas W. Dreschel, and Tom K. Scott

Orientation of root growth on earth and under microgravity conditions can possibly be controlled by hydrotropism-growth toward a moisture source in the absence of or reduced gravitropism. A porous-tube water delivery system being used for plant growth studies is appropriate for testing this hypothesis since roots can be grown aeroponically in this system. When the roots of the agravitropic mutant pea ageotropum (Pisum sativum L.) were placed vertically in air of 91% relative humidity and 2 to 3 mm from the water-saturated porous tube placed horizontally, the roots responded hydrotropically and grew in a continuous arch along the circular surface of the tube. By contrast, normal gravitropic roots of `Alaska' pea initially showed a slight transient curvature toward the tube and then resumed vertical downward growth due to gravitropism. Thus, in microgravity, normal gravitropic roots could respond to a moisture gradient as strongly as the agravitropic roots used in this study. Hydrotropism should be considered a significant factor responsible for orientation of root growth in microgravity.

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Debra Reiss-Bubenheim, Charles Winget Dr., and Robert S. Bandurski Dr.

The gravity-sensing mechanism in plants end transduction of the gravity stimulus to re-orientating plant growth has not been ascertained. By removing the everpresent influence of the 1 g terrestrial environment on plant growth and development, information maybe obtained about the gravity detection mechanism in plants. The Space Life sciences Payloads Office at NASA-ARC processed the secondary Payloads flight experiment “Growth Hormone Concentration and Distribution in Plants” (GHCD). The experiment occupied two middeck lockers in the crew compartment onboard the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-34) in October 1989. The payload's Principal Investigator was Dr. S. Bandurski, Professor of Botany at Michigan State University. dr. Bandurski's experiment was designed to investigate concentration, distribution, and turnover rates of indole-3 acetic acid (IAA) in dark-grown corn seedlings exposed to the microgravity environment. The flight data may provide valuable information for long-term crop production in space as well as terrestrial agriculture. This poster will present the flight payload processing procedures necessary to successfully conduct a space shuttle flight experiment.

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Gary W. Stutte and Elizabeth C. Stryjewski

Manual methods for estimating root length are tedious and time-consuming. Image capture and analysis systems can be used to obtain precise measurements of root length and growth angle. Root activity can also be determined through analysis of the mean pixel intensity of a digitized image. Both commercial (the IBM-compatible ICAS System) and public domain (the Macintosh-based NIH Image) image capture and analysis software have been used to analyze intact root systems. Examples of ICAS classification of hydroponic and soil-grown root systems will be presented. Advantages of the NIH Image software for analysis of micro-gravity experiments aboard the Space Shuttle will be discussed.

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D.T. Strickland, H. Biesinger, W.F. Campbell, F.B. Salisbury, P.S. Hole, L. Gillespie, M. Levinskikh, and I. Ivanova

Our objectives were to ascertain whether wheat (Triticum aestivum L. cv. SuperDwarf) plants, grown aboard the Russian space station Mir in the microgravity of space, exhibited any plant structure and histochemical changes compared with those ground-based plants grown in Moscow, Russia, and Logan, Utah. Plants were harvested at stages of ontogeny corresponding to day 6, 14, 25, 35, and 55 post-emergence and placed in 4% formaldehyde: 1% glutaraldehyde (4F: 1G) fixative, adjusted to pH 7.2, and stored in Aclam plastic bags. Upon return to earth, samples were dehydrated and embedded in Spurr's resin. Use of differential chromophores on semi-thin sections (1 μm) suggests no major artifacts in cellular structure. Enzyme localizations for lignin, carbohydrate, starch, alkaline and acid phosphatase indicate that plants grown aboard Mir appeared to have less lignin than ground control plants. (Supported by NASA Grant NCC 2-831 and the Utah Agr. Expt. Station.)

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Susan L. Steinberg, Gerard J. Kluitenberg, Scott B. Jones, Nihad E. Daidzic, Lakshmi N. Reddi, Ming Xiao, Markus Tuller, Rebecca M. Newman, Dani Or, and J. Iwan D. Alexander

Baked ceramic aggregates (fritted clay, arcillite) have been used for plant research both on the ground and in microgravity. Optimal control of water and air within the root zone in any gravity environment depends on physical and hydraulic properties of the aggregate, which were evaluated for 0.25-1-mm and 1-2-mm particle size distributions. The maximum bulk densities obtained by any packing technique were 0.68 and 0.64 g·cm-3 for 0.25-1-mm and 1-2-mm particles, respectively. Wettable porosity obtained by infiltration with water was ≈65%, substantially lower than total porosity of ≈74%. Aggregate of both particle sizes exhibited a bimodal pore size distribution consisting of inter-aggregate macropores and intra-aggregate micropores, with the transition from macro- to microporosity beginning at volumetric water content of ≈36% to 39%. For inter-aggregate water contents that support optimal plant growth there is 45% change in water content that occurs over a relatively small matric suction range of 0-20 cm H2O for 0.25-1-mm and 0 to -10 cm H2O for 1-2-mm aggregate. Hysteresis is substantial between draining and wetting aggregate, which results in as much as a ≈10% to 20% difference in volumetric water content for a given matric potential. Hydraulic conductivity was approximately an order of magnitude higher for 1-2-mm than for 0.25-1-mm aggregate until significant drainage of the inter-aggregate pore space occurred. The large change in water content for a relatively small change in matric potential suggests that significant differences in water retention may be observed in microgravity as compared to earth.

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T.W. Tibbitts, J.G. Croxdale, C.S. Brown, and R.M. Wheeler

Leaf cuttings from 6-week-old potato plants were planted into the Astroculture flight unit for the STS-73 shuttle flight in Oct. 1995. Tubers developed in the axils of the five leaf cuttings during the 16-days in microgravity. The flight unit had a closed growth chamber maintained at 22°C, 82% relative humidity, 150 μmol·m–2·s–1 photosynthetic photon flux, and with carbon dioxide controlled during the light period to ≈400 μmol·mol–1 and exceeding 4000 μmol·mol–1 during the dark period. A controlled delivery system using a porous tube system in arcillite medium provided water to the cuttings. A camera mounted in the top of the chamber provided video images of the plants at 2-day intervals. The cuttings maintained good vitality for the first 12 days of the flight followed by senescence of the leaves. Tubers 1.5 cm in diameter and weighing 1.7 g were produced. The shape and size of the tubers, the internal cell arrangement, and the size range of the starch grains, were similar on cuttings developed in a control experiment on the ground. Also the concentrations of starch, sucrose, fructose, glucose, and total soluble protein in the cuttings from space were similar to the cuttings developed on the ground. The challenges in scheduling experiments in a space flight and in conducting comparison control experiments on the ground are discussed. Environment control variations associated with cabin pressure changes, venting requirements, and air sampling are reviewed.

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Gary W. Stutte and Greg Goins

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.