Questions for ‘No sun? No prob! A new process might soon grow plants in the dark’  

a photo of a very dark green leaf covered in water droplets

Leaves normally make a plant’s food through photosynthesis. That process requires sunlight. But new research is finding a new electricity-driven substitute for photosynthesis. This new process holds out the prospect of one day growing crops in the dark.

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To accompany No sun? No prob! A new process might soon grow plants in the dark’  


Before Reading:

  1. You discover a mysterious seed. You decide to plant it and find out what it is. What materials will you need to grow this seed? What steps will you take once you have those things? Two weeks after planting your seed, a tiny sprout appears. What will you do to care for this sprout? What physical signs would you watch for that might indicate that your sprout is struggling?
  2. Imagine you are one of the first Mars colonists. You and your small team will live on Mars for an entire year before going home. One of your jobs will be to manage a little glass-domed Martian garden, which is only about the size of your bedroom. With such limited space, what types of plants would you choose to grow? Briefly explain the reason for some of your choices. Then draw a map of your garden. Indicate where each plant would grow. 

During Reading:

  1. List three things scientists have successfully grown using their new “hack.”
  2. What gas does this “hack” take in? What chemical does it spit out? Rather than sunlight, what type of energy does this hack use to operate?
  3. What problem will space travelers face, according to Matthew Romeyn in the story? How might this new technology help solve that problem?
  4. What common cooking ingredient contains acetate? 
  5. How was the acetate in this study used?
  6. What did the team learn by tagging their acetate with isotopes of carbon? 
  7. What does NASA’s Space Crop Production program study? 
  8. According to Gioia Massa, where will most of the astronaut’s food on early Mars missions most likely originate? How does she imagine food production on Mars will change over time?

After Reading:

  1. List the atmospheric gases that contribute most to climate change today. Based on this study, how might this innovation help slow the rate of climate change? Use information from this article to support your answer.
  2. Refer to your answer to question #2 in the “Before Reading” section above. You return to Mars for a second year. This time you bring a new technology that allows you to grow plants in complete darkness. You only need to pour a little plant food on your crops to make them grow. How might you redesign your Martian garden to take advantage of this technology? Sketch your new garden design. Explain briefly how this new design might allow you to grow more food than before.