Food crops treated with synthetic plant hormone could grow in space, study suggests

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crops on mars

With scarce nutrients and weak gravity, growing potatoes on the Moon or on other planets seems unimaginable. But the plant hormone strigolactone could make it possible, plant biologists from the University of Zurich have shown. The hormone supports the symbiosis between fungi and plant roots, thus encouraging plants’ growth – even under the challenging conditions found in space.

In space, cultivated plants would not just have to contend with low-nutrient soil, but also with conditions of microgravity, i.e. almost zero gravity. In order to investigate the influence of such an environment on plant growth, the researchers cultivated petunias and mycorrhizal fungi under simulated low gravity conditions. Petunias provide a model organism for plants of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which include for example tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants.

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The experiments revealed that microgravity hindered the mycorrhization and thus reduced the petunias’ uptake of nutrients from the soil. But the plant hormone strigolactone can counteract this negative effect. Plants that secreted high levels of strigolactone and fungi which the researchers had treated with a synthetic strigolactone hormone were able to thrive in the low-nutrient soil despite the microgravity conditions.

Read full, original article: Plant Hormone Makes Space Farming a Possibility

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