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Keywords:

  • Bioregenerative life-support system (BLSS);
  • microgravity;
  • plant growth;
  • reproductive cycle;
  • seed-to-seed cycle;
  • Space;
  • stress-induced morphogenic response (SIMR)

Abstract

Human inhabitation of Space requires the efficient realisation of crop cultivation in bioregenerative life-support systems (BLSS). It is well known that plants can grow under Space conditions; however, perturbations of many biological phenomena have been highlighted due to the effect of altered gravity and its possible interactions with other factors. The mechanisms priming plant responses to Space factors, as well as the consequences of such alterations on crop productivity, have not been completely elucidated. These perturbations can occur at different stages of plant life and are potentially responsible for failure of the completion of the seed-to-seed cycle. After brief consideration of the main constraints found in the most recent experiments aiming to produce seeds in Space, we focus on two developmental phases in which the plant life cycle can be interrupted more easily than in others also on Earth. The first regards seedling development and establishment; we discuss reasons for slow development at the seedling stage that often occurs under microgravity conditions and can reduce successful establishment. The second stage comprises gametogenesis and pollination; we focus on male gamete formation, also identifying potential constraints to subsequent fertilisation. We finally highlight how similar alterations at cytological level can not only be common to different processes occurring at different life stages, but can be primed by different stress factors; such alterations can be interpreted within the model of ‘stress-induced morphogenic response’ (SIMR). We conclude by suggesting that a systematic analysis of all growth and reproductive phases during the plant life cycle is needed to optimise resource use in plant-based BLSS.