The first school experiment to test if plant cuttings build roots in zero gravity has been sent to the International Space Station (ISS).
The trial, designed by Maria Koch, Raphael Schilling and David Geray - three students from an agricultural high school in Germany - left Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on board the SpaceX rocket on February 19.
To date, experiments conducted in zero gravity have only concentrated on the growth behaviour of seeds. If cuttings can be used to propagate plants in space, it would be a significant advance in efforts to supply food for long space missions.
Miss Koch said: “We are just hugely excited that we have been able to get our experiment on the ISS. There hasn’t been any research on the effect of zero gravity on cuttings before. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The cuttings will undergo extreme differences in temperature and humidity in space, and so need to be protected against bacterial or fungal disease. BASF has provided both knowledge and products to help keep the cuttings healthy.
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Dr Sebastian Rohrer, BASF said: “This is the most exciting field trial I have ever been involved in. Working in research has always been about exploring new ideas. But until now, our tests have never left Earth.
“BASF’s approach to innovation is based on connecting with others. Working with the students has been a great example of this – young people like these will be the future of innovation in agriculture.”