GENERAL INFORMATION: ABOUT
The CPL specializes in the use
environments to examine whole-plant physiological responses to the
environment. We primarily study crop plants, but our research has
evolved to include the use of plants to clean up contaminated soils (phytoremediation).
In addition to studies with wheat,
lettuce, spinach, radishes, and
have conducted studies using hybrid poplar trees,
crested wheat grass,
and plants native to wetland areas. We have recently added
dwarf peas to our collection.
Our plants are often grown under
electric lamps and in hydroponic culture – so they never see the sun
and never touch soil. These conditions allow us to conduct detailed
studies on genetic responses to environmental conditions. We routinely
grow plants in relatively small, sealed chambers so that we can
measure the fluxes of water vapor in transpiration, and CO2 in
photosynthesis and respiration. We are proud to have been funded by
NASA for the past 20 years to study
the challenges associated with growing food crops in bioregenerative life support systems
SUPER-DWARF CROP SELECTION AND BREEDING PROGRAM
Twenty years ago we began breeding a super dwarf wheat line (15
cm tall) that could be grown to maturity in the tiny growth chambers
used on the Space Shuttle and the Space Station. In 1996 we released
the first product of our breeding program: USU-Apogee.
USU-Apogee wheat flew on the Russian space station Mir in 1997
and on the International
Space Station in April and May 2002. In 2002, we released
an even shorter wheat line: USU-Perigee.
We have searched the world germplasm collection for super dwarf lines
of all the major crop plants and now have a collection of crop plants
that are early maturing and extremely small. These lines are not
available through commercial seed companies. We have increased the
seed of these lines in controlled greenhouse conditions and offer it
at no charge to other scientists and to educational institutions for
teaching plant biology. Seed of these lines can be ordered through the
outreach portion of this site.
We have developed and tested
many novel types of sensors over the years. We work closely with
Campbell Scientific Inc.,
and Apogee Instruments Inc. to
interface sensors with dataloggers.