Agriculture takes flight space biology's new frontier

Oct 13, 2023

Imagine farming, but not in the countryside — in space! That's the kind of innovative ag news coming from Nithya Rajan, Ph.D., of Texas A&M AgriLife. She's part of a groundbreaking NASA-funded study aiming to understand plant stress in space — vital for any future Mars residents. 

But why is a plant scientist interested in space? Long space missions mean we need to grow our own food up there. Dr. Rajan, typically surrounded by earthly crops, is now figuring out how to keep plants happy in a place they've never been before. Her colleague, Shawana Tabassum, Ph.D., is crafting high-tech leaf sensors to catch early signs of plant discomfort. 

They're using cowpeas in a special growth chamber to simulate space conditions. It's like a dress rehearsal for plants, preparing them for zero gravity, differing temperatures, and limited resources. 

This isn't your everyday farm news. It's about securing food sources for astronauts who might one day call Mars home. The sensors are key players, helping researchers understand what plant stress looks like in a place where no human has gone before. 

But we're not launching cowpeas into space just yet. First, they've got to ace their tests here on Earth. If all goes well, these sensors could be space-bound, marking agriculture's giant leap into the cosmos. 

Source : wisconsinagconnection
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