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Space Exploration Plant Growth

Description:

Lead Center: KSC

Participating Centers: ARC, JSC

Scope Title:

Remote Sensing Technologies for Monitoring Plants

Scope Description:

Plant (crop) systems envisioned for future space travel could provide supplemental fresh food for the human crews during early missions and increased amounts of food along with oxygen and carbon dioxide removal for future longer-term missions. This latter concept has been referred to as bioregenerative life support. To do this will require controlled environments for growing the crops, perhaps using techniques similar to recirculating hydroponics used on Earth. But this will require careful monitoring of the environment and the plants themselves to assess their health and performance. In addition, crew time will likely be limited in many space settings, so having the monitoring systems operate autonomously or with little human intervention would be beneficial.

This subtopic solicits advanced technologies for remotely sensing the status of plants in controlled environments of space. These environments are typically small in volume, often use narrow band lighting from light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and are subject to reduced gravity. Example methods might include multispectral and hyperspectral sensing of crops, use of bio-indicators in the crops themselves, or other innovative, noninvasive means. Technologies could focus on approaches for (1) monitoring the morphology and growth of plants and possibly standing biomass and/or (2) monitoring stress to the plants, including water stress, nutrient stress, and plant pathogens. Sensing of volatile compounds produced by the plants is not solicited for this subtopic.  

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 5
Primary Technology Taxonomy:
    Level 1: TX 08 Sensors and Instruments
    Level 2: TX 08.3 In-Situ Instruments/Sensor

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:
  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Hardware

Desired Deliverables Description:

Phase I Deliverables—Reports demonstrating proof of concept, including test data from proof-of-concept studies, and concepts and designs for Phase II. Phase I tasks should answer critical questions focused on reducing development risk prior to entering Phase II.

Phase II Deliverables—Delivery of technologically mature hardware, including components and subsystems that demonstrate performance over the range of expected spacecraft conditions. Hardware should be evaluated through parametric testing prior to shipment. Reports should include design drawings, safety evaluation, and test data and analysis. Prototypes must be full scale unless physical verification in 1g is not possible. Robustness should be demonstrated with long-term operation and with periods of intermittent dormancy. System should incorporate safety margins and design features to provide safe operation upon delivery to a NASA facility.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) growth chamber on the International Space Station (ISS) provides a controlled environment with about 0.2 m2 growing area. Within the APH, environmental control includes light from LEDs, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration, along with water delivery to a solid medium used to support root systems. The APH is used primarily for plant research on the ISS, and the environmental parameters are logged regularly. Plants in the APH chamber can be monitored with visible imagery and infrared sensing for canopy temperatures. The APH is closed atmospherically to allow condensate recovery and water recycling and to also track plant carbon dioxide uptake and evapotranspiration. Larger plant chambers used for crop production on future missions would build on these capabilities, but may or may not be atmospherically closed to the crew cabin.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

This technology could be proven on the ISS and would be useful to long-duration human exploration missions, including Gateway, lunar surface, and Mars, including surface and transit. This subtopic is directed at needs identified by the Life Support and Habitation Systems Capability Leadership Team (CLT) in areas of in situ production of fresh foods.

References:

Askim, J. R.; Mahmoudi, M.; Suslick, K. S. 2013. Optical sensor arrays for chemical sensing: The optoelectronic nose. Chem. Soc. Rev. 42 (22): 8649-8682.

Chaerle, L.; Hagenbeek, D.; De Bruyne, E.; Valcke, R.; Van Der Straeten, D. 2004. Thermal and chlorophyll-fluorescence imaging distinguish plant-pathogen interactions at an early stage. Plant and Cell Physiology 45 (7): 887-896.

Clevers, J. G.; Kooistra, L.; Schaepman, M. E. 2010. Estimating canopy water content using hyperspectral remote sensing data. Int. J. Appl. Earth Obs. Geoinformation 12: 119-125.

Fahlgren, N.; Gehan, M. A.; Baxter, I. 2015. Lights, camera, action: high-throughput plant phenotyping is ready for a close-up. Cur. Opin. Plant Biol. 24:93-99.

Loreto, F.; Barta, C.; Brilli, F.; Nogues, I. 2006. On the induction of volatile organic compound emissions by plants as consequence of wounding or fluctuations of light and temperature. Plant Cell Environ 29 (9): 1820-1828.

Richards, J. R.; Schuerger, A. C.; Capelle, G.; Guikema, J. A. 2003. Laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy of dark- and light-adapted bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L) plants grown under three irradiances levels and subjected to fluctuating lighting conditions. Remote Sensing of Environment 84:323-341.

Schuerger, A. C.; Copenhaver, K. L.; Lewis, D.; Kincaid, R.; May, G. 2007. Canopy structure and imaging geometry may create unique problems during spectral reflectance measurements of crop canopies in bioregenerative advanced life support systems. Intl. J. Astrobiology 6 (2): 109-121.

Serbin, S. P.; Singh, A.; Desai, A. R.; Dubois, S. G.; Jablonski, A. D.; Kingdon, C. C.; Kruger, E. L.; Townsend, P. A. 2015. Remotely estimating photosynthetic capacity, and its response to temperature, in vegetation canopies using imaging spectroscopy. Remote Sens. Environ. 167: 78-87.

Ustin, S. L. 2013. Remote sensing of canopy chemistry. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110: 804-805.

Zeidler, C.; Zabel, P.; Vrakking, V.; Dorn, M.; Bamsey, M.; Schubert, D.; Ceriello, A.; Fortezza, R.; De Simone, D.; Stanghellini, C.; Kempkes, F.; Meinen, E.; Mencarelli, A.; Swinkels, G-J.; Paul, A-L.; Ferl, R. J. 2019. The plant health monitoring system of the EDEN ISS space greenhouse in Antarctica during the 2018 experiment phase. Front. Plant Sci. 10:1457 (doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.01457).


Scope Title:

Biopriming of Plant Microbiome to Promote Crop Health and Growth

Scope Description:

This subtopic solicits advanced technologies for identifying, selecting, developing, or designing microbes that can promote plant growth in controlled environment crop production systems for space. In the terrestrial environment, the microbiome of the roots (rhizosphere) and the above ground plant (phyllosphere) act as a genetic extension of the plant. The rhizosphere consortia metabolizes precursor compounds that can be further metabolized by the plants and in turn promote growth. This consortia can also produce secondary metabolites that exhibit antimicrobial activity and further protect the plant. Currently, space-bound seeds are surface sterilized, and growth substrates are sterilized, which does away with most microbially conferred advantages—think of a human without its own healthy gut microbes. Therefore, NASA is interested in tailoring a rhizosphere for space crops and “biopriming” plant seeds with a beneficial, probiotic microbial assemblage that is amenable to containment and presents no human health risk. Approaches should consider one or a few organisms that have demonstrated beneficial effects on crops rather than whole communities. These organisms could be applied to seeds or be transferred endophytically (inside the seed or plant material). Crops for these systems would be grown hydroponically or in solid media watered with nutrient solution, or using water along with controlled-release fertilizer. As examples, microbes that confer resistance to stresses such as root zone hypoxia, root zone drought stress, and plant pathogens could be considered. Target crops should focus on leafy greens, such as lettuce, leafy Brassica species, leafy Chenopod species, or small fruiting crops such as pepper and tomato. The ability to put organisms into stasis and then reactivate them in a relevant, operational mode should be considered.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 1 to 3
Primary Technology Taxonomy:
    Level 1: TX 06 Human Health, Life Support, and Habitation Systems
    Level 2: TX 06.3 Human Health and Performance

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:
  • Research
  • Analysis

Desired Deliverables Description:

Phase I Deliverables—Reports demonstrating proof of concept, including test data from proof-of-concept studies, and concepts and approaches for Phase II. Phase I tasks should answer critical questions focused on reducing development risk prior to entering Phase II.

a. Identification of microbes of interest from literature accounts or current experimentation from existing libraries, including Veggie or the International Space Station (ISS).

b. Obtain full genomic profiling to scan for unfavorable genomic components and triage candidates for beneficial effects.

Phase II Deliverables—Delivery of isolated microorganisms and/or microbial communities for testing on candidate crops. Preliminary assessment on the safety for use with food crops should be included. Scientific publications and presentations at relevant professional societies.

a. Apply to candidate crop seedlings and conduct growth evaluations.

b. Assess growth and metabolite content of treated crops.

c. Perform toxicity and biofilm tests for candidate microbes both in isolation and in combination. Toxicity screen will be against relevant human cell lines.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) and Veggie plant growth chambers on the ISS provide controlled environments with about 0.2 m2 growing area. Plants are grown in a solid medium (arcillite or calcined clay) that is sterilized prior to launch, and plants are typically propagated using surface sterilized seeds. But neither system is sterile in its operations and are open to the cabin environment (Veggie) or occasionally opened and accessed by the crew for horticultural operations (APH). For one Veggie study, a Fusarium fungus was noted growing on zinnia plants, likely due to a malfunction in the air circulation resulting in very high humidity. Similar environmental anomalies (environmental control failures, too little or too much water in the root zone, nutrient stress) can occur in any controlled environment, including those envisioned for future space crop production systems. Having a microbiome that can confer resistance to such perturbations and generally promote healthier growth can reduce the risk of crop failures for these systems. Biocontainment measures are not typically required for probiotic consortia in field settings, but may be an issue in confined environments of space. Introducing a tailored microbiome into a controlled environment such as Veggie aboard the ISS will undoubtedly rule out classes of microbes due to their propensity to become opportunistic pathogens. Therefore, there is a large knowledge gap when it comes to the types of strains that will be beneficial for crop production not only in space, but in closed environments. Storage and handling of these tailored microbiomes for long-duration space exploration also presents a unique challenge.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

This technology could be proven on the ISS and would be useful to long-duration human exploration missions, including Gateway, lunar surface, and Mars, including surface and transit. This subtopic is directed at needs identified by the Life Support and Habitation Systems Capability Leadership Team (CLT) in areas of in situ production of fresh foods. The research is also applicable to the rapidly expanding controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry on Earth.

References:

Ali, S.; Kim, W-C. 2018. Plant growth promotion under water: Decrease of waterlogging-induced ACC and ethylene levels by ACC deaminase-producing bacteria. Front. Microbiol. Vol. 9, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01096.

Cha, J-Y., Han, S.; Hong, H-J., et al. 2016. Microbial and biochemical basis of a Fusarium wilt-suppressive soil. The ISME Journal 10: 119-129.

Compant, S., Clément, C.; Sessitsch, A. 2010. Plant growth-promoting bacteria in the rhizo- and endosphere of plants: Their role, colonization, mechanisms involved and prospects for utilization. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42: 669-678.

Deng, S.; Wipf, H. M. -L.; Pierroz, G.; Raab, T. K.;  Khanna, R.; Coleman-Derr, Devin. 2019. Microbial soil amendment dynamically alters the strawberry root bacterial microbiome. Scientific Reports, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53623-2.

Edmonds, J. W.; Sackett, J. D.; Lomprey, H.; Hudson, H. L.; Moser D. P. 2020. The aeroponic rhizosphere microbiome: community dynamics in early succession suggest strong selectional forces. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 113:83-99 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10482-019-01319-y).

Mahnert, A., Moissl-Eichinger, C., Berg, G. 2015. Microbiome interplay: plants alter microbial abundance and diversity within the built environment. Front. Microbiol. 6:887 (doi:10.3389/fmicb.2015.00887).

Marasco, R.; Rolli, E.; Ettoumi, B.; Vigani, G.; Mapelli, F., et al. 2012. A drought resistance-promoting microbiome is selected by root system under desert farming. PLOS ONE 7(10): e48479 (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048479).

Mayaka, S.; Tirosh, T.; Glick, B.R. 2004. Plant growth-promoting bacteria that confer resistance to water stress in tomatoes and peppers. Plant Science 166: 525-530.

Quiza, L.; St-Arnaud, M.; Yergeau, E. 2015. Harnessing phytomicrobiome signaling for rhizosphere microbiome engineering. Front. Plant Sci. 14 (https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2015.00507).

Rosenblueth, M.; Martínez-Romero, E. 2006. Bacterial endophytes and their interactions with hosts. MPMI Vol. 19, No. 8: 827-837 (DOI: 10.1094/ MPMI -19-0827).


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