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article imagePlants grow in space despite lack of gravity

By Abigail Prendergast     Dec 11, 2012 in Science
Scientists have disproved the theory that plants require gravity to stimulate root growth by bringing seeds aboard the International Space Station and conducting experiments with Arabidopsis thaliana flowers.
Traditionally, gravity has been a crucial component for stimulating root growth in plants. Scientists have recently discovered, however, that with their special space plants, did not need the pull in order for the flora to successfully grow.
According to National Geographic Daily News, a research team out of the University of Florida attributes the phenomenon with plants' inert ability to orient themselves while growing.
Back in 2010, scientists sent small, white seeds known as Arabidopsis thaliana to be used as test subjects aboard the International Space Station in order to find out how plants grow in space, without gravity.
The fact of the matter is the seeds germinated in space exactly as they would have on Earth. The roots grew out of the seeds in search of nutrients, despite that they were 220 miles above the planet. The theory states that plants hold onto their instinctive need to grow and flourish, whether they are on Earth or not.
"The role of gravity in plant growth and development in terrestrial environments is well understood," said Anna-Lisa Paul, co-author of the study and plant geneticist. "What is less well understood is how plants respond when you remove gravity."
The roots of plants consist of behaviors called "waving" and "skewing," reports Red Orbit. Waving is a consistent "series of regular, undulating changes in the direction of root tips during growth."
Skewing happens to be "the slanted progression of roots growing along a near-vertical surface."
Scientists theorize that the latter trait came into play allowing the plants to flourish in space, believing the roots deviated from the direction where there would otherwise be gravity. The plants' roots kept in tandem with the interweaving pattern of weaving and skewing, growing away from the shoots and keeping strongly negative phototropic.
Even so, researchers also noticed that waving patterns in space plants were not a 100 percent turnaround from the skewing patterns of their Earthen brethren. This reinforces the idea that the two phenomena are their own separate entities and that gravity does not dictate their processes.
“Although plants use gravity as an orientating tropism on the Earth’s surface, it is clear that gravity is neither essential for root orientation, nor is it the only factor influencing the patterns of root growth,” Paul wrote along with Robert Ferl in the journal, BMC Plant Biology. “It seems that other features of the environment are also required to ensure that a root grows away from the seed, thereby enhancing its chances of finding sufficient water and nutrients to ensure its survival.”
More about Spaceflight, Plants, Arabidopsis thaliana, Gravity
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