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refinements of this 19th century technology for modern residential and commercial lighting applications ( Wheeler, 2008 ). NASA’s funding of research on use of LEDs as a light source for space-based plant growth systems in the late 1980s signaled the beginning

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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa cv. Waldmann's Green) plants were grown in a large, tightly sealed chamber for NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS) program. Plants were started by direct seeding and grown in 64 0.25-m2 trays (six plants per tray) using nutrient film technique. Environmental conditions included: 23°C, 75% relative humidity, 1000 ubar (ppm) CO2, a 16/8 photoperiod, and 300 umol m-2 s-1 PPF from metal halide lamps. Although the chamber was typically opened once each day for cultural activities, atmospheric ethylene levels (measured with GC/PID) increased from near 15 ppb at 23 days after planting (DAP) to 47 ppb at 28 DAP. At harvest (28 DAP), heads averaged 129 g FW or 6.8 g DW per plant, and roots averaged 0.6 g DW per plant. Some tipburn injury was apparent on most of the plants at harvest. By 28 DAP, stand photosynthesis rates for the entire chamber (approx. 20 m2) reached 17.4 umol CO2 m-2 s-1, while dark-period respiration rates reached 5.5 umol CO2 m-2 s-1. Results suggest that good yields can be obtained from lettuce grown in a tightly sealed environment.

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A wheat (Triticum aestivum cv. Yecora Rojo) stand was grown using nutrient film culture in the closed conditions of NASA's Biomass Production Chamber. Rates of photosynthesis and respiration of the entire stand (about 20 m2) were determined daily using a regime of 20 hr light/4 hr dark, 20 C light/16 C dark an average PPF of 600 μmol/m2/s from HPS lamps, and a CO2 cone of 1000 ppm. Fractional interception of PPF by the stand reached a maximum of 0.96 at 24 days from planting. Rates of photosynthesis were constant throughout the photoperiod as determined by short term drawdowns of CO2 throughout the photoperiod. Drawdown rates of CO2 were correlated with rates determined by logging of mass flow of CO2 injected during chamber closure. Photosynthetic drawdowns of CO2 indicated that photosynthesis was not saturated at 1000 ppm CO2 and that the CO2 compensation point was about 50 ppm. Whole stand light compensation points were 200 to 250 μmol/m2/s between days 13 and 70 and then increased rapidly during senescence.

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. of Horticulture, Purdue University; to whom reprint requests should be addressed. Purdue University Agricultural Experiment Station journal paper no. 15489. Research supported in part by NASA grant NAGW-2329. The cost of publishing this paper was

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. Research supported in part by NASA grant NAGW-2329. We gratefully acknowledge MaryAnn Rounds and Deb Smart, Dept. of Food Science, Purdue Univ., for performing the seed composition analysis and Paul Williams, Dept. of Plant Pathology, Univ. of Wisconsin

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Abstract

NASA is interested in extraterrestrial crop production because it is expected that some future missions may require life support systems that can regenerate food as well as air and water. Such systems must produce a nearly complete human diet within very stringent limits on size and energy consumption. Although many problems remain to be solved by further research, CELSS based on crop production by higher plants appear to be feasible. The feasibility of this approach will be tested in the next several years by a project to build and operate a preprototype system that can recycle oxygen, carbon, water, and nitrogen. If this project succeeds, it will be followed by Space Station experiments to develop cultural methods for weightless plants and ground-based tests of more sophisticated prototypes with human occupants. Readiness to build operational space systems may be achieved as early as the turn of the century.

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Elevated levels of ethylene occur in enclosed crop production systems and in space-flight environments—leading to adverse plant growth and sterility. There are engineering advantages in growing plants at hypobaric (reduced atmospheric pressure) conditions in biomass production for extraterrestrial base or spaceflight environments. Objectives of this research were to characterize the influence of hypobaria on gas exchange and ethylene evolution of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Buttercrunch). Lettuce was grown under variable total gas pressures [50 and 101 kPa (ambient)]. The six chambered, modular low plant growth (LPPG) system has a Rosemount industrial process gas chromatograph (GC) for determining gas concentrations of oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N). With the LPPG system, changes in CO2 can be tracked during the light and dark periods on a whole canopy basis, and transpirate collected as a measurement of transpiration. During short growth periods of up to seven days, growth was comparable between low and ambient pressure. However, there was a tendency for leaf tip burn under ambient pressure, in part because of higher ethylene levels. Tip burn increased under high light (600 vs. 300 μmol·m-1·s-1) and high CO2 (600 vs. 100 Pa). The CO2 assimilation rate and dark respiration tended to be higher under ambient conditions. High humidity (100%) reduced CO2 assimilation rate compared to 70% RH. Ethylene was increased by high light (600 vs. 300 μmol·m-1·s-1) and high CO2 (600 vs. 100 Pa). Ethylene was higher under ambient than low pressure. Enhanced plant growth under low pressure may be attributed to reduced ethylene production and decreased dark respiration (lower night consumption of metabolites).

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There are engineering and payload advantages in growing plants under hypobaric (reduced atmospheric pressure) conditions in biomass production for extraterrestrial base or spaceflight environments. Objectives of this research were to characterize the influence of hypobaria on growth, gas exchange, and ethylene evolution of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. cv. Buttercrunch). 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. Lettuce plants were grown under variable total gas pressures [25 (low) or 101 kPa (ambient)]. During short growth periods of up to 10 days, growth was comparable between low and ambient pressure plants. Regardless of total pressure, plant growth was reduced at 6 kPa pO2 compared to 12 and 21 kPa pO2. At 6 kPa pO2 there was greater growth reduction and stress with ambient (101 kPa) than low (25kPa) pressure plants. Plants at 25/12 kPa pO2 had comparable CO2 assimilation and a 25% lower dark-period respiration than 101/21 kPa pO2 (ambient) plants. Greater efficiency of CO2 assimilation/dark-period respiration occurred with low pressure plants at 6 kPa pO2. Low pressure plants had a reduced CO2 saturation point (100 Pa CO2) compared with ambient (150 Pa CO2). Low pO2 lowered CO2 compensation points for both 25 and 101 kPa plants, i.e., likely due to reduced O2 competing with CO2 for Rubisco. Ethylene was 70% less under low than ambient pressure. High ethylene decreased CO2 assimilation rate of 101/12 kPa O2 plants. The higher dark-period respiration rates (higher night consumption of metabolites) of ambient pressure plants could lead to greater growth (biomass production) of low pressure plants during longer crop production cycles.

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To whom reprint requests should be sent; e-mail stuttgw@kscems.ksc.nasa.gov . This research was supported in part by NASA's Life Science Services Contract (NAS 10-02001) at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Mention of a trademark, proprietary

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