The CPL specializes in the use of controlled environments to examine whole-plant physiological responses to the environment. We primarily study crop plants, but our research has evolved to include the use of plants to clean up contaminated soils (phytoremediation). In addition to studies with wheat, rice, soybeans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and carrots, we have conducted studies using hybrid poplar trees, fruit trees, crested wheat grass, and plants native to wetland areas. We have recently added dwarf peas to our collection.
Our plants are often grown under electric lamps and in hydroponic culture – so they never see the sun and never touch soil. These conditions allow us to conduct detailed studies on genetic responses to environmental conditions. We routinely grow plants in relatively small, sealed chambers so that we can measure the fluxes of water vapor in transpiration, and CO2 in photosynthesis and respiration. We are proud to have been funded by NASA for the past 20 years to study the challenges associated with growing food crops in bioregenerative life support systems in space.