Effects of Supplemental Far-Red Light on Leafy Green Crops for Space
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The use of plants to provide food and eventual bioregenerative life support has been studied for nearly 50 years. A logical starting point for early missions like the International Space Station (ISS) is to grow leafy greens to supplement the crew’s diet of packaged foods. In an attempt to expand the list of potential crops, NASA conducted ground studies with eight leafy greens: ‘Dragoon’ lettuce, ‘Extra Dwarf’ pak choi, shungiku, ‘Barese’ Swiss chard, ‘Red Russian’ kale, ‘Toscano’ kale, ‘Amara’ mustard, and ‘Outredgeous’ lettuce, which has been used in prior ground and flight tests with the Veggie Plant Chamber. Plants were grown for 28 days under 320 µmol m-2 s-1 PPFD from LED lights, 3000 ppm CO2, and 23C to simulate an environment similar to the Veggie Plant Chamber aboard ISS. Half of the plants were given ~7 µmol m-2 s-1 and the other half, ~23 µmol m-2 s-1 of supplemental far-red (735 nm). Supplemental far-red light resulted in increased fresh mass yields for some species but not all. This could be due to the relative small amount of far-red photons even in the supplemental treatment. ‘Extra Dwarf’ pak choi and ‘Dragoon’ lettuce produced the highest yields (70-80 g FM/plant) under both lighting regimes. A more consistent response to supplemental far-red light was increased plant canopy cover and increased shoot heights, which may be a consideration for volume constrained systems in space.