Each year brings humanity a little closer to a life amongst the stars and researchers from all over the world are trying to figure out how we can survive with limited resources. More so, Earth provides us with the tools required for sustaining us. Unfortunately, the vast expanse of space is lacking in that department. However, it seems that a team of Australian researchers has come up with a way of growing wheat effortlessly in low-gravity conditions or in restricted spaces.
The team based a recent experiment on a NASA technique called „speed breeding” which boosts crop production by three times. This process involves blasting crops with continuous light to trigger early growth in plants.
„We thought we could use the NASA idea to grow plants quickly back on Earth, and in turn, accelerate the genetic gain in our plant breeding programmes.” States Lee Hickey, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia.
According to Hickey, by using the speed breeding technique, we can grow six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley plants, and four generations of canola plants in just under a year. This process, however, needs to be applied on specially modified glasshouses. Growing crops in regular glasshouses can produce three generations of harvest in the same amount of time, the scientist notes.
Based on the experiments, the crop yield was higher when the plants were grown under a controlled climate and extended daylight conditions. The researchers believe these experiments will pave the way not only to an efficient means of sustaining humanity in space but also for feeding Earth’s population. According to them, the world will have to increase crop production by 60 to 80 percent by 2050 to feed nine billion people.
NASA’s technique was designed largely for study purposes, however, the agriculture industry has decided to tap into its potential. Dow AgroSciences, an agricultural subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, has partnered up with the scientists to release an industrial version of the wheat growing technique this year.
Called the DS Faraday, the speed breeding technique will supposedly be able to produce bountiful crops under the most extreme weather conditions. The results of the experiment have been published in the journal, Nature Plants.
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