Effect of space flight factors on alfalfa seeds
To explore the effect of space flight factors on the early development of alfalfa seedling, dry seeds were placed onboard a satellite for a 15-day flight. After retrieval, the ultra structure of seed coat and the chemical content of seed were tested, followed by tests for germinate ability, seedling growth, and mitotic and chromosome aberrations. Results showed that space flight factors have both positive and negative effects on alfalfa seeds. Positive effects include: (1) A 6.2% increase in germinate potential and (2) an 80% decrease in the number of hard seed in flight seeds. Meanwhile, negative effects included a decrease of 3.0 and 33.2% in the index of germination and vigor of flight seeds, respectively, which may be partly due to the inhibition of cell mitotic (26% less than ground control) and root growth (29.0% less than ground control) after the space flight. Moreover, the DNA and Ca2+ content of alfalfa seeds increased after the space flight, while the reserve energy content of alfalfa seeds, such as saccharine and fatty acid, decreased after the space flight. Conclusively, space flight factors accelerate the germination process of alfalfa seeds but restrain the root from growing due to chromosomal damage and abnormal mitosis induced by cosmic radiation.
Key words: Alfalfa, space flight factors, germination, chromosome aberration.