UF researchers aim to one day farm on Mars

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 6:21 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - UF researchers are playing a part in the future of space agriculture.

One of the co-directors of the UF Space Plants Lab said all the research they do has one main goal, to one day grow plants on Mars.

Anna-Lisa Paul is the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research.

She is working with a team of researchers to learn how plants respond to the environment in space.

“We need plants if we want to be more than just tourists in space,” said Paul.

She said the key to understanding how plants change in different environments is to monitor how their genes change.

“What we’re trying to do is see how we can understand how to make better adapted, better useful plants in a spaceflight environment, and an exploration environment like going to the moon and Mars.”

The research team has created a way, using GoPos, to track changes in the plants, that they hope will be used in space one day.

“When plants are under stress they reflect light differently. We can collect those images with these GoPro cameras, and then that gets fed down all the way back here to Florida, then it goes through some imaging software that allows us to tell, ‘this batch of plants, they’re not looking so great’ so let’s check their nutrient solutions.”

Paul said greenhouses are vital for humans to be able to spend time on the moon in future Artemis missions.

“Our long term goal is to grow plants on mars.”

A goal, that if completed, would change space exploration forever.

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