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How many plants are needed to survive in an airtight chamber?

How many plants are needed to survive in an airtight chamber?


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How large a garden do you need if you are to survive on them producing enough oxygen in a closed chamber?

And which are the most effective plants?


According to this news article, in a NASA experiment one man survived for 15 days in a sealed chamber containing 30,000 small wheat plants. If you read the article you will find that this did not produce a completely balanced system - some excess oxygen had to be removed, and some extra CO2 had to be pumped in.


Plants control microbiome diversity inside leaves to promote health

In a new study, published in the journal Nature, Michigan State University scientists show how plant genes select which microbes get to live inside their leaves in order to stay healthy.

This is the first study to show a causal relationship between plant health and assembly of the microbial community in the phyllosphere -- the total above-ground portions of plants. The work suggests that organisms, from plants to animals, may share a similar strategy to control their microbiomes.

Microbiome studies are a hot topic in human health science. When scientists mention that human 'gut bacteria' should be well balanced, they refer to the gut microbiome, the genetic material of all the microbes living in human digestive systems.

"The field of large-scale plant microbiome study is only about a decade old," said Sheng Yang He, lead co-author of the study, a member of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. "We want to know if plants need a properly assembled phyllosphere microbiome.

Plant genes: Gatekeepers of microbes

"In nature, plants are bombarded by zillions of microbes," said He, a University Distinguished Professor who holds joint appointments in the Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the MSU College of Natural Science. "If everything is allowed to grow in the plants, it would probably be a mess. We want to know if the numbers and types of microbes matter, if there is a perfect composition of microbes. If so, do plants have a genetic system to host and nurture the right microbiome?"

It seems plants do. The newly discovered mechanism involves two genetic networks. One involves the plant immune system and the other controls hydration levels inside leaves. Both networks work together to select which microbes survive inside of plant leaves.

"When we remove both networks from a plant, the microbiome composition inside the leaves changes," He said. "The numbers and mix of bacteria types are abnormal, and our team sees symptoms of tissue damage in plants."

"The symptoms are conceptually like those associated with inflammatory bowel disease in humans," he said. "This is probably because the genes involved are ancient, in evolutionary terms. These genes are found in most plants, while some even have similarities to those involved in animal immunity. "

According to the scientists in the He lab, this may be the first time dysbiosis-associated sickness is formally described in the plant kingdom. The fact it seems conceptually similar to human health suggests a fundamental process in life.

Developing new tech to determine causality

The reason it is difficult to find causality in microbiome studies is because it is practically impossible to cut through the noise of zillions of microbes.

The He lab has worked around this problem by developing a germ-free growth chamber they call the gnotobiotic system -- an environment for rearing organisms in which all the microorganisms are either known or excluded.

"Very few people have grown a sterile plant in sterile, organic-rich material," He said. "Our system uses a peat-based soil-like substrate, basically greenhouse potting soil. We use heat and pressure to kill all the germs in the soil, and the plants can grow under this germ-free condition."

Researchers can then introduce microbes in a controlled fashion, into this environment.

"You can add one, two, or even a community of bacteria," He said. "In our study, we extracted a community of bacteria from dysbiotic, or sick, plants and introduced them to our healthy plants, and vice-versa. We found that both the microbiome composition and the plant genetic systems are required for plant health."

For example, a plant with defective genetics could not take advantage of a microbiome transplanted from a healthy plant. The microbiome slowly reverted to the state that caused sickness.

On the other end, a healthy plant exposed to a sick plant's microbiome also suffered. Although it had the genetic tools to select the right microbes, microbe availability was limited and abnormal. The plant couldn't fix the situation.

Microbe levels and composition matter

It turns out that increased microbiome diversity correlates with plant health. Somehow, plant genes are gatekeepers that encourage this diversity.

The sick plants in the study had 100 times more microbes in a leaf, compared to a healthy plant. But the population was less diverse. To figure out why, the scientists did thousands of one-on-one bacteria face-offs to tease out which strains were aggressive.

In the sick plants, proteobacteria strains -- many of which are harmful to plants -- jumped from two-thirds the composition of a healthy microbiome to 96% in the abnormal population. Fermicutes strains, many which may be helpful to plants, went down in numbers.

"Perhaps, when the population of microbiome is abnormally higher in that sick plant, the microbes are physically too close to each other," He said. "Suddenly, they fight over resources, and the aggressive -- in this case harmful -- ones unfortunately win. Healthy plants seem to prevent this takeover from happening."

The big picture: Supporting plant health

The study is yet another example of how diversity is important to support healthy living systems. Each type of microbe might impart different benefits to plants, such as increased immunity, stress tolerance or nutrient absorption.

Scientists such as He want to be able to manipulate the plant genetic system to reconfigure the plant microbiome. Plants could become more efficient at selecting their microbial partners and experience improved plant health, resilience, and productivity.

"Our field is still young," He said. "Microbiome research tends to focus on human gut bacteria. But many more bacteria live on plant leaves, the lungs of our planet. It would be wonderful to understand how microbes impact the health of the phyllosphere in natural ecosystems and crop fields."


Growing Plants in Space

FYears of careful experimentation and research has helped scientists and astronauts reach great milestones in the field of space gardening. Early experiments have led to the germination of this field aboard the International Space Station (ISS), and will eventually bloom to be able to safely growing plants that astronauts can eat in space, Mars and beyond!

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren take a bite of plants harvested for the VEG-01 investigation. Credits: NASA

The Theory

“One of their most compelling discoveries was that certain root-growth strategies, assumed to require gravity, really don’t.”
Charles Darwin hypothesized that roots grow by touching their way across the ground and, gravity pulling down on them. This growing pattern is called “Skewing”. In a 2010 experiment aboard the ISS, it was discovered that roots of plants grow skewed like their Earthly counterparts, leading to the conclusion that gravity isn’t essential in root orientation. Plants will seek out nutrients without using gravity as a necessary cue.

The research

In 2014, Expedition 39 installed the Veggie plant growth system, also known as Veg-01. At the same time, a control chamber was activated by researchers at the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kenedy Space Center in Florida, to shadow the procedures performed in the ISS.

The Veggie system works by placing one seed in ‘plant pillows’. These are special bags with ‘space dirt’ that controls and releases fertilizer. A plant wick is inserted and a seed is placed inside the oriented so that the roots grow into the bag and the stem emerges up and out of the bag. Blue and Red LED lights are set for photosynthesis and give the plants a sense or directions so the keep growing upward. The walls of the Veggie chamber expand to fit the size of the growing crop.

At the beginning and for many years, experiments were sent to the ISS to grow plants, freeze them and send them back to scientists on Earth to study and determine how growing in microgravity affect the plant’s DNA. Then finally, on August 2015, astronauts ate for the first time a veggie they grew in the Veggie System, they ate leaves of a red romaine lettuce. Most of the lettuce from the experiment was packed and frozen to be sent back to earth for more observations on Earth.

In between growing two sets of red romaine lettuce, scientists at NASA also gave astronauts a set of Zinnias, a flowering plant to grow in the Veggie system. Growing Zinnias is a great model for similar long-term crops like tomatoes. Scientists wanted to see how the Veggie system would run under longer-duration systems where the plants must, not only create leaves but, must flower before they produce their fruit. Growing Zinnias was a challenge as they started showing signs of stress. Astronaut Scott Kelly was able to bring back to health some Zinnias and some, that developed fungus, were sent back to Earth for study. In the end, the reward was beautiful flowering Zinnias. Astronauts took many pictures with them and used them as a centerpiece for their dinner table. Some studies show that tending to a garden can help boosts morale, making people feel better, be more relaxed and optimistic.

(01-22-2016) — One-year mission crew members Scott Kelly of NASA (left) and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos (right) celebrated their 300th consecutive day in space on Jan. 21, 2016. Kelly is holding a zinnia grown in space as part of the Veggie experiment. Credits: NASA

2017 – 2018 Research

Most recently, with a new addition to the ISS, larger plants are able to be grown. The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) “is the largest growth chamber aboard the orbiting laboratory. Roughly the size of a mini-fridge, the habitat is designed to test which growth conditions plants prefer in space and provides specimens a larger root and shoot area. ” The APH system is largely autonomous, managing and regulating the temperature, humidity, oxygen, and carbon dioxide levels are controlled from an Earth-based computer relaying instructions and adjustments, which will be essential for growing different types of plants. “APH is equipped with white, red, blue, green, and far red LEDs and has a wide variety of settings capable of producing light from zero to 1,000 micromoles, a unit of measurement used to describe the intensity of a light source.” More light means scientists are able to broaden the species of plants that can be grown and studied in space!

APH will be able to provide the first studies of space-based agricultural cycles -growing seed to seed, from plants grown in space, and planting their seeds again. “In learning more about the conditions plants prefer, botanists here at home may be able to plan new growth strategies for drought and blighted regions or push for the adoption of large-scale automated growth systems in regions with no naturally-arable soil.”


How many plants are needed to survive in an airtight chamber? - Biology

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Martian Crops

In 2015, while Verseux was on Mauna Loa, his special lettuce lived on nutrients made exclusively by a type of microbe known as cyanobacteria, which needs only light, water, air and minimal nutrients to survive. At the same time, samples of cyanobacteria were orbiting Earth on the outer surface of the ISS. They were there with several other kinds of microbes as part of the Biology and Mars Experiment (BIOMEX), administered by the German Aerospace Center and collaborators.

The primary objective was to learn about the limits of life by subjecting organisms to 16 months of orbital radiation. Verseux and Daniela Billi, a University of Rome astrobiologist and botanist, and Verseux’s graduate research adviser, used the opportunity to learn about the viability of cyanobacteria for Martian agriculture, as the Red Planet endures similarly harsh radiation. What, for example, would happen on Mars if the cyanobacteria were accidentally exposed?

The results of their research, published in the journal Astrobiology earlier this year, show that the microbes could survive if shielded by regolith (the technical name for the pulverized rock covering many moons and planets). In other words, you’d best not farm cyanobacteria outdoors, but if your greenhouse had a broken window, your microbes would be just fine, protected by the local topsoil. A wayward meteorite wouldn’t lead to starvation after the prepackaged meals stopped arriving from Earth.

Regolith also may be useful in other ways. If you don’t want to ship dirt — literally, earth — to space, the pulverized stone is all you’ve got. But it turns out cyanobacteria have a knack for extracting healthful minerals directly from regolith-like desert rocks here on Earth. In other words, this microbe appears to be just the right organism for “in-situ resource utilization” on Mars — the long-term solution NASA seeks. Once cyanobacteria tap into the local terrain, soaking up melted Martian ice and UV-filtered sunlight, they can theoretically become part of the supply chain in their own right.

Now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bremen’s Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity, Verseux envisions much more than just lettuce production off-world. Nutrients harvested from cyanobacteria could potentially nourish almost any crop, especially with a little genetic engineering. “Once you’ve grown them, you can use them directly to make oxygen, food, biofuels and a few other things,” he says. “You can produce basically everything humans will need to survive.”

The same research that could make human exploration of Mars possible might also provide scientists with the knowledge to make the excursion worthwhile. “There are a lot of parallels between looking at what resources might be available for use by life and looking at what signatures might be evidence of life,” observes Massa. So by learning what we can grow and how to cultivate it, we’ll ultimately be better prepared to forage for Martian natives doing the same.

Jonathon Keats is a contributing editor at Discover . This story originally appeared in print as "Making a Greener Space."


Plants control microbiome diversity inside leaves to promote health

In a new study, published in the journal Nature, Michigan State University scientists show how plant genes select which microbes get to live inside their leaves in order to stay healthy.

This is the first study to show a causal relationship between plant health and assembly of the microbial community in the phyllosphere &mdash the total above-ground portions of plants. The work suggests that organisms, from plants to animals, may share a similar strategy to control their microbiomes.

Microbiome studies are a hot topic in human health science. When scientists mention that human &lsquogut bacteria&rsquo should be well balanced, they refer to the gut microbiome, the genetic material of all the microbes living in human digestive systems.

&ldquoThe field of large-scale plant microbiome study is only about a decade old,&rdquo said Sheng Yang He, lead co-author of the study, a member of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. &ldquoWe want to know if plants need a properly assembled phyllosphere microbiome.

Plant genes: Gatekeepers of microbes

&ldquoIn nature, plants are bombarded by zillions of microbes,&rdquo said He, a University Distinguished Professor who holds joint appointments in the Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the MSU College of Natural Science. &ldquoIf everything is allowed to grow in the plants, it would probably be a mess. We want to know if the numbers and types of microbes matter, if there is a perfect composition of microbes. If so, do plants have a genetic system to host and nurture the right microbiome?&rdquo

It seems plants do. The newly discovered mechanism involves two genetic networks. One involves the plant immune system and the other controls hydration levels inside leaves. Both networks work together to select which microbes survive inside of plant leaves.

&ldquoWhen we remove both networks from a plant, the microbiome composition inside the leaves changes,&rdquo He said. &ldquoThe numbers and mix of bacteria types are abnormal, and our team sees symptoms of tissue damage in plants.&rdquo

&ldquoThe symptoms are conceptually like those associated with inflammatory bowel disease in humans,&rdquo he said. &ldquoThis is probably because the genes involved are ancient, in evolutionary terms. These genes are found in most plants, while some even have similarities to those involved in animal immunity. &ldquo

According to the scientists in the He lab, this may be the first time dysbiosis-associated sickness is formally described in the plant kingdom. The fact it seems conceptually similar to human health suggests a fundamental process in life.

Developing new tech to determine causality

The reason it is difficult to find causality in microbiome studies is because it is practically impossible to cut through the noise of zillions of microbes.

The He lab has worked around this problem by developing a germ-free growth chamber they call the gnotobiotic system &ndash an environment for rearing organisms in which all the microorganisms are either known or excluded.

&ldquoVery few people have grown a sterile plant in sterile, organic-rich material,&rdquo He said. &ldquoOur system uses a peat-based soil-like substrate, basically greenhouse potting soil. We use heat and pressure to kill all the germs in the soil, and the plants can grow under this germ-free condition.&rdquo

Researchers can then introduce microbes in a controlled fashion, into this environment.

&ldquoYou can add one, two, or even a community of bacteria,&rdquo He said. &ldquoIn our study, we extracted a community of bacteria from dysbiotic, or sick, plants and introduced them to our healthy plants, and vice-versa. We found that both the microbiome composition and the plant genetic systems are required for plant health.&rdquo

For example, a plant with defective genetics could not take advantage of a microbiome transplanted from a healthy plant. The microbiome slowly reverted to the state that caused sickness.

On the other end, a healthy plant exposed to a sick plant&rsquos microbiome also suffered. Although it had the genetic tools to select the right microbes, microbe availability was limited and abnormal. The plant couldn&rsquot fix the situation.

Microbe levels and composition matter

It turns out that increased microbiome diversity correlates with plant health. Somehow, plant genes are gatekeepers that encourage this diversity.

The sick plants in the study had 100 times more microbes in a leaf, compared to a healthy plant. But the population was less diverse. To figure out why, the scientists did thousands of one-on-one bacteria face-offs to tease out which strains were aggressive.

In the sick plants, proteobacteria strains &ndash many of which are harmful to plants &ndash jumped from two-thirds the composition of a healthy microbiome to 96% in the abnormal population. Fermicutes strains, many which may be helpful to plants, went down in numbers.

&ldquoPerhaps, when the population of microbiome is abnormally higher in that sick plant, the microbes are physically too close to each other,&rdquo He said. &ldquoSuddenly, they fight over resources, and the aggressive &ndash in this case harmful &ndash ones unfortunately win. Healthy plants seem to prevent this takeover from happening.&rdquo

The big picture: Supporting plant health

The study is yet another example of how diversity is important to support healthy living systems. Each type of microbe might impart different benefits to plants, such as increased immunity, stress tolerance or nutrient absorption.

Scientists such as He want to be able to manipulate the plant genetic system to reconfigure the plant microbiome. Plants could become more efficient at selecting their microbial partners and experience improved plant health, resilience, and productivity.

&ldquoOur field is still young,&rdquo He said. &ldquoMicrobiome research tends to focus on human gut bacteria. But many more bacteria live on plant leaves, the lungs of our planet. It would be wonderful to understand how microbes impact the health of the phyllosphere in natural ecosystems and crop fields.&rdquo


Contents

One of the earliest methods of preserving flowers is by drying. Many plants retain their shape and color when air-dried naturally.

Use of glycerine, making the preserved plant supple and long-lasting. To use this method, the plant material needs to be gathered in a fully hydrated state. Water and glycerine are then mixed. The ratio of water to glycerine should be 2:1. The water should be lukewarm for better mixing and faster absorption. If the autumn colors are showing, it may be too late to preserve them in glycerine. [1]

Pressing is a very easy way to preserve flowers although the relief is lost and the flowers are flat. Unglazed paper, such as newsprint or an old telephone book, is best for pressing. Flowers are spread so they do not overlap between several thicknesses of newspaper. Additional layers of paper and flowers can be built up and then covered with a board or piece of cardboard before pressing down with a heavy object. The time required for drying, depending on the flower size or tissue content, can be anywhere from two to four weeks. [2]


From the lab to the home

To gauge how plants might interact in a more typical household environment, Waring calculated the clean air delivery rate (CADR) for each. CADR measures how much clean air is pumped into a room by an air purifier over a given time.

By standardizing the results of each study with CADR, they were able to judge how well a plant cleaned a room when compared to proven strategies like running a mechanical air purifier or opening a window.

“Plants, though they do remove VOCs, remove them at such a slow rate that they can’t compete with the air exchange mechanisms already happening in buildings,” says Waring.

To reduce VOCs enough to impact air quality would require around 10 plants per square foot. In a small 500-square foot apartment, that’s 5,000 plants, a veritable forest.

Plants are technically removing a minute amount of airborne toxins, but, “to have it compete with air exchange, you would need an infeasible amount of plants,” he says.

Today NASA grows plants aboard the International Space Station for fresh food and to “create a beautiful atmosphere,” noting their health benefits lie in their ability to improve our mental state.


Look before you harvest

A common error that new beekeepers make is harvesting the honey supers without checking the brood boxes for honey. You cannot assume the deeps are full just because the honey supers are full. Often the bees use one or both brood boxes for brood and pollen during most of the season. Not until late in the year do they start moving the honey closer to the brood nest. If you take the supers without checking, you could be leaving your bees with almost nothing for the winter. So above all, remember to look before you take.

Related

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Building a better houseplant

At the University of Washington, environmental engineer Stuart Strand has experimented with genetically modifying plants to better remove VOCs from the air.

Last year, he and his research team published the results of their work genetically modifying a common pothos ivy with a protein found in mammalian livers. It’s the same protein our bodies produce to break down alcohol. Over the course of two years, they were able to encode the plants with a version of the protein sourced from rabbits. In lab tests, the genetically modified plants removed more chloroform and benzene from the air than their non-modified counterparts.

To meaningfully clean the air, Strand says a large volume of their plants would need to be consolidated, effectively creating a sink, and a fan of some sort would be needed to blow VOCs across their path.

“I think we can get a couple more genes into the plant,” he says. “We’re working on a second generation of GMOs for formaldehyde.”

Gall, however, remains skeptical that even a genetically modified plant can meaningfully improve air quality.

“I think it’s scientifically great work,” he says, but remains sceptical that the plants will show any meaningful improvement outside of a lab setting.

In a report cited by Bloomberg, plant sales over the past three years topped £1.3 billion, particularly among those ages 18-34. While plants can provide a number of psychological benefits, like stress relief, Gall, Strand, Allen, and Waring all emphasised that they shouldn’t be purchased as an air purifying tool.

“I would hate to see say a low-income family who’s concerned about air [quality] review their options and say ‘I could either buy a $400 (£310) air cleaner, or I could go out and buy a $30 (£23) plant,’” says Gall. “That plant is not going to improve their air quality—full stop. It just won’t.”