Responsible Center: NASA KSC
Grant Monitor: Massa, Gioia
Center Contact: 321-861-2938
Unique ID: 14766
Solicitation / Funding Source: 2020 Space Biology NNH20ZDA001N-SB E.12. Flight/Ground Research
Grant/Contract No.: 80NSSC22K0205
Project Type: GROUND
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No. of Master's Candidates: 1
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|| Integrating space-grown food into the astronaut diet is integral to mitigating nutrient deficiencies on long-duration flights and has been deemed a priority in the NASA Decadal Survey and the Space Biology, Plant Biology Element. Potassium, calcium, and vitamin K concentrations in stored space food may not be adequate to meet the recommended daily human intake, and compounds including vitamins B1, and C degrade over time and can become inadequate for human nutrition. For example, vitamin C concentrations of space food stored in International Space Station (ISS) conditions degraded 32 to 83% over three years. Additionally, space radiation increases the risk of cataracts, creating a need to integrate more lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that potentially mitigate eye issues, into the astronaut diet. Mizuna is one of six leafy greens species to be considered for incorporation into the diet on medium- to long-duration space missions based on productivity, volume, growth pattern, mineral nutrient accumulation, and phytochemical concentrations. However, models characterizing crop physiological and biochemical responses to crop production and environmental factors are needed to improve productivity and nutrient density while mitigating labor and energy resource use. Without improving productivity and nutrient density, the regular integration of fresh produce into the astronaut diet and the feasibility of long-duration space missions remains in question.
The long-term goal is to aid in the facilitation of long-term space missions by establishing environmental conditions and cultural factors required for optimal leafy greens growth, nutritional value, space- and energy-use efficiency, and labor by modeling crop physiological and biochemical responses. The overall objective of this proposal is to improve and quantify the consistency, phytonutrient quality, and productivity of cut-and-come-again mizuna by identifying suitable cultivars, determining the optimal light intensity and photoperiod, and quantifying changes over time in ISS-like environmental conditions (temperature of ~23°C, ~2,800 ppm CO2). Specific aim 1 is to identify at least two or three mizuna cultivars with great yield and nutrient potential making them highly suitable for production in space. We hypothesize that some cultivars will produce biomass faster than others while some cultivars will have higher nutrient concentrations. Specific aim 2 is to determine the optimal light intensity and photoperiod for maximum biomass production and phytonutrient density of mizuna, creating models to predict growth and biochemical responses in ISS-like conditions. We hypothesize that yield and phytonutrient concentrations will increase as light intensity increases to a cultivar-specific optimum by increasing photosynthesis, photoreceptor mediated biochemical reactions, and beneficial stress responses. Specific aim 3 is to quantify changes in plant physiology and phytonutrient concentrations over time to identify an optimal cut-and-come-again harvesting and production protocol for mizuna. We hypothesize that as plants age, the nutrient profile and biomass production will change as well. Therefore, new seedlings may have to replace more mature cut-and-come-again plants prior to reductions in yield to maintain nutritional quality for astronaut diets.
By the completion of this study, we expect to have identified at least one high-yielding nutrient-dense mizuna cultivar highly suitable for space production. We will have the data required to calculate resource-use efficiencies to balance energy use, production duration, yield, and nutrition. We also expect to have identified how long cut-and-come-again mizuna should be grown to maximize biomass and nutrient productivity, thus improving the feasibility of long-duration space missions.
|Research Impact/Earth Benefits:
|| Selecting proper cultivars is not only essential to optimize plant production in space but on earth as well. The cultivar data generated from our study can inform terrestrial indoor plant producers. With this thorough dataset, producers can weigh factors based on their production goals; for example, fresh mass is generally the most heavily weighted parameter for indoor plant producers. However, other factors such as anthocyanin concentration may also be of greater interest on earth because anthocyanins confer a red or purple leaf pigmentation that can be appealing to consumers. One benefit to earth production that has not been thoroughly explored from an industry perspective is phytonutrient concentrations. Detailed phytonutrient analyses, such as the analyses conducted in our research, is not common in the indoor plant production industry. With this data available, producers can select more nutrient-dense cultivars for production and can potentially communicate the benefit of the cultivar(s) they select to consumers.