Aspects on Plant Growth Using EMCS Hardware 2001-01-2182
As a link in the development of the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) and under a separate contract with ESA (FUMO Study), functionality and biocompatibility studies of plants have been performed. The main goal has been to test if a breadboard (FUMO BB) containing major components planned for use in the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) is optimal for space experiments with plant material. Initially in the study the authors had to perform technical improvements in order to facilitate a more optimal function of the BB-model. A test plan and the experimental set-up for the verification of the biocompatibility and biological functionality included a selection of a few model plant species [Lepidium sativum L. (cress) and Arabidopsis thaliana ] which could be tested at different developmental levels of morphological and physiological complexity. The following test aspects were focused on in order to clarify the biological functionality of the FUMO H/W: Illumination [fluorescent lamps and light emission diodes (LED)], Life Support, Humidity Control, Water Supply, Observation, Short and Long Term Plant Growth Experiments and Contamination Prevention.
The present article summarises the final outcome of the FUMO Study. The results obtained showed that the modified FUMO BB functioned well, but that some of the services could be improved, e.g. the use of a white plus red LED array gave more optimal plant growth results than fluorescent lamps or white LED. Analysis of the microbial contamination showed that microorganisms were detected in the water filter system. Inside the ECs both fungi and anaerobic bacteria were found after 10 days. Despite the microbial contamination a normal growth and morphology of the plants were demonstrated in the short term (up to 15 days) experiments using cress. Both the short and the long duration plant growth experiments using Arabidopsis showed the usefulness of the BB and the experiment containers (EC). In the latter case mature Arabidopsis plants as well as viable seeds were obtained after a growth period in the order of 2 months.
In parallell with and as a consequence of the FUMO Study and the results obtained, modifications have been made in the concept for the EMCS. The results have also given technical improvements which have been implemented in the EMCS facilities and the Experiment Reference Model (ERM) which creates the final basis for the EMCS which will be placed on the International Space Station.