Effects of Space Travel on Seed Germination and Viability
Understanding space-environment effects on biological organisms like seeds will help plan for long duration space missions, such as those planned to Mars.
In January 2016 students at Logan H S compared growth of the radish seeds flown in space to those that had stayed Earth-bound by growing them in soil in a controlled environment. LHS students recorded a trend of faster germination for the space seeds.
We identified different rates of germination in radish seeds between 3 sample groups: ground seeds, shaken seeds, and space-exposed seeds.
Both the shaken and space-exposed seeds germinated significantly faster than ground. In addition, space seeds germinate significantly faster than shaken.
We believe changes in germination rates are caused by modification or damage to seed surfaces from abrasion during rocket launch or ionizing space radiation.
Examination of the seed coats showed the enhanced production of surface proteins in space-exposed and shaken seeds. Previous research (Terras, Eggermont, et. al., 1995) has shown production of these proteins is initiated by disturbance.
Thus, with the help of the GEAR UP program at LHS, a partnership with the Physics Department at USU and University of Tsukuba in Japan, further seed germination experiments have been designed to study effects from specific factors such as exposure to different levels of beta radiation and vibration. These experiments are currently ongoing and will continue into 2017.