Cultivar Testing

As NASA looks toward a long-term human presence beyond Earth’s orbit, there are specific science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) challenges related to food production in space. Established in 2015 as a partnership between Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and NASA’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs, Growing Beyond Earth (GBE) enables student community scientists to actively contribute data toward NASA mission planning.

Leafy greens are a rich source of vital nutrients often absent in the conventional prepackaged astronaut meals. Our experiment aims to assess the potential of select leafy green cultivars for space-based cultivation. These specific varieties underwent preliminary testing in the Growing Beyond Earth schools during 2015 and 2016 using an earlier GBE kit model. With advancements in technology, we’re revisiting these cultivars to gauge their performance under improved conditions.

On the International Space Station (ISS), resources for growing plants are limited. In closed system agriculture, every gram, ml, and kilowatt is accounted for. This year, NASA scientists need your help to determine the optimal light solution for maximizing plant growth while minimizing the input of the other resources e.g. plants prefer certain wavelengths to grow. To produce those wavelengths more or less electricity is needed to have plants grow faster but also more water is needed to increase the yield. The comparison of kwhours/g or liters/g are great factors to compare the yields exposed to different environmental conditions. As with all GBE trials, this trial will require very detailed and accurate data collection and note-taking.

Cultivar Testing Research Protocols

Cultivar Testing Specific Resources: