West Virginia State University Receives $100,000 for Space Agricultural Research Project

Contact: Jack Bailey
(304) 766-4109

August 23, 2021
West Virginia State University Receives $100,000 for Space Agricultural Research Project

INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State University (WVSU) has been awarded $100,000 in federal funding from NASA for a research project that will investigate the efficacy and adaptability of sweet potatoes as a potential crop that could be grown on Mars.

“My team and I will perform physiological and biochemical characterization of the sweet potatoes in a simulated Mars-like extraterrestrial environment and evaluate major traits such as development, biomass production, photosynthesis, tuber quality and abiotic stress tolerance,” said Dr. Umesh Reddy, WVSU professor of biology.

Reddy and his colleagues will also analyze the profiles and content of heavy metals in the leaves, stems and tuber tissues of the sweet potatoes to understand the uptake and accumulation of toxic metals during development in the soil simulant.

“The data will help develop transgenic stress-tolerant sweet potato plants in the future that selectively prevent heavy metal uptake,” said Reddy.

The project's long-term goal is to develop a physiology program that educates, encourages and engages students in participating in NASA-related space biology research activities.

This project is supported by the NASA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program in response to the Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) Announcement Number NNH21ZHA002C.  

More information about this program can be found at Rapid Response Research | NASA.

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multigenerational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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