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Keywords:

  • Controlled ecological life-support system;
  • Glycine max (L.) Merr.;
  • hydroponics;
  • seed quality;
  • seed yield;
  • space

Abstract

Higher plants play a key role in Bioregenerative Life-Support Systems (BLSS) for long-term missions in space, by regenerating air through photosynthetic CO2 absorption and O2 emission, recovering water through transpiration and recycling waste products through mineral nutrition. In addition, plants could provide fresh food to integrate into the crew diet and help to preserve astronauts' wellbeing. The ESA programme Micro-Ecological Life-Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) aims to conceive an artificial bioregenerative ecosystem for resources regeneration, based on both microorganisms and higher plants. Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] is one of the four candidate species studied for soilless (hydroponic) cultivation in MELiSSA, because of the high nutritional value of the seeds. Within the MELiSSA programme – Food characterisation Phase I, the aim of the research carried out on soybean at the University of Naples was to select the most suitable European cultivars for cultivation in BLSS. In this context, a concise review on the state-of-the-art of soybean cultivation in space-oriented experiments and a summary of research activity for the preliminary theoretical selection and subsequent agronomical evaluation of four cultivars will be presented in this paper.