A school project to determine whether vegetative propagation of vegetables using plant cuttings is possible in space will be launched on its journey to the International Space Station (ISS) this summer.
The V3PO student project is the work of three students from the agricultural faculty of the Edith Stein School in Ravensburg, Germany, who want to find out if plant cuttings build roots in zero gravity and how the roots behave over time.
The aim ultimately is to generate fresh food for space missions without the need to carry large amounts of seed.
See also: Can we really grow potatoes on Mars?
Chemical company BASF is providing the scientific support for the project, while US space agency NASA has reserved a spot for the experiment on the ISS.
Dr Sebastian Rohrer of the early fungicide biology department of BASF’s Crop Protection division, says: “This is perhaps the most extraordinary field experiment my team and I have ever participated in.
“We are eagerly awaiting the launch and are curious about the results.”
To date, experiments conducted in zero gravity have concentrated on the growth behaviour of roots during seed germination. However, unlike seeds, cuttings have no root system.
The students want to investigate if and how cuttings build roots, sprouts, and leaves without the influence of gravity. At the same time, a control experiment will be carried out on Earth under the influence of gravity.
If cuttings can be used for vegetative propagation under zero-gravity conditions, it would be a significant advance in efforts to supply food grown in space for long-term space flights, such as to Mars.
For more on the V3PO project, go to www.sciencestarter.de/Blog