Crop Selection in Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems

  • Keith D. CrookerEmail author
Living reference work entry


Long-term human habitation beyond the confines of Earth will require closed-loop agricultural habitats that provide oxygen replenishment and edible biomass for future space explorers. These habitats must miniaturize terrestrial ecosystems to replicate the life-supporting biome of our planet, and allow cultivation of species-diverse plant communities for optimum human habitability. By utilizing Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS), habitats can balance carbon dioxide acquisition, water usage, light utilization, and crop yield to increase the robustness and survivability of a habitat’s plant species mix in a space environment. Two different plant photosynthetic pathways, called C3 and C4 photosynthesis, can each metabolize and store carbon at different rates that affect their CO2 acquisition and crop yield. Previous experiments in CELSS have focused on C3 food crop species despite C4 species showing a more efficient carbon utilization level under wider environmental tolerances. This report reviews the two different photosynthetic pathways and compares the carbon biomass produced by three historical CELSS C3 crop experiments to terrestrial C4 crop experiments. While the results did not show a significant difference, they did suggest enough divergence to demonstrate possible benefits of a mixed C3/C4 crop species diversity in future CELSS habitats.


Biomass production C3 photosynthesis C4 photosynthesis Calvin-Benson cycle Carbon dioxide uptake Carbon mass balance Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems Closed-loop life support Crop diversity Spaceflight crew nutrition Space habitat design 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Math, Physical & Life Sciences, WorldwideEmbry Riddle Aeronautical UniversityDaytona BeachUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Roberto Furfaro
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Systems and Industrial EngineeringThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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