DOI: 10.3390/plants13010073 ISSN: 2223-7747

Bread Wheat in Space Flight: Is There a Difference in Kernel Quality?

Tatiana S. Aniskina, Kirill A. Sudarikov, Margarita A. Levinskikh, Alexander A. Gulevich, Ekaterina N. Baranova
  • Plant Science
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Planning long-term space flights necessarily includes issues of providing food for the crew. One of the areas of research is the development of technologies for independent production of food by the crew. Extensive research on lettuce has confirmed that the “space production” of lettuce is not inferior to that on Earth, even in the absence of gravity, but the same deep understanding of the quality of grain crops has not yet been achieved. Therefore, the goal of our work is to establish whether the conditions for growing wheat in outer space without gravity affect the weight and basic parameters of the grain, and whether this leads to increased asymmetry of the kernel and distortion of the starch composition. The objects of the study were wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) kernels of the Super Dwarf cultivar. Of which, 100 kernels matured in outer space conditions in the Lada growth chamber on the International Space Station (ISS), and 85 kernels of the control wheat grown in a similar growth chamber under terrestrial conditions. It has been established that kernels from ISS have significant differences to a smaller extent in weight, area, length, and width of the kernel. However, the kernels under both conditions were predominantly large (the average weight of a kernel in space is 0.0362 g, and in terrestrial conditions—0.0376 g). The hypothesis that the level of fluctuating asymmetry will increase in outer space was not confirmed; significant differences between the options were not proven. In general, the kernels are fairly even (coefficients of variation for the main parameters of the kernel are within 6–12%) and with a low or very low level of asymmetry. The length of starch granules of type A in filled and puny kernels is significantly greater in kernels from ISS than in the control, and in terms of the width of starch granules B and roundness indices, both experimental variants are the same. It can be assumed that the baking qualities of earthly kernels will be slightly higher, since the ratio of type B starch granules to type A is 5–8% higher than on the ISS. Also, the width of the aleurone layer cells in mature kernels was significantly inferior to the result obtained on Earth. The work proposes a new method for establishing the asymmetry of kernels without a traumatic effect (in early works, it was supposed to study asymmetry in transverse sections of the kernels). Perhaps this will make it possible to further develop a computer scanning program that will determine the level of asymmetry of the wheat fruit.

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