Kennedy Space Center Teams with USDA to Study Benefits of Fungus for Growing Space Crops

In a Lab at the Kennedy Space center in Florida, ARS research technician Mark Sperry evaluates the performance of the fungus Cladosporium sphaerospermum strain TC09 with lettuce and simulated soil. (Cory Spern, D4701-1)

The research collaboration between the Kennedy Space Center Space Crop Production Team and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) was featured in an article titled "Terrestrial Fungus May Be Key To Farming In Space".

In collaboration with NASA, ARS scientists are studying a harmless fungus which can dramatically accelerate plant growth. In this study, ARS scientists found that an airborne fungus, Cladosporium sphaerospermum strain TC09, speeds up plant growth. TC09 produces gasses, known as volatiles, that dramatically accelerate plant growth. TC09 is commonly found indoors and is not known to cause disease in plants or any ailments to humans or animals.

The NASA KSC Space Crop Production Team has tested TC09 on crops such as red romaine "outredgeous" lettuce and mizuna mustard, finding that TC09 worked extremely well in the artificial media typically used in spaceflight. In addition, NASA is constructing two plant growth chambers similar to what is used on the International Space Station that will be housed at the ARS research lab in Disney's Epcot Center.

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