Faculty of Natural Sciences Faculty of Natural Sciences News and events
Self-fertilising Plants in Space: Lucky Clover launches to the ISS on 15 March 2023

Self-fertilising Plants in Space: Lucky Clover launches to the ISS on 15 March 2023

In 2022, a team of students won the German Aerospace Center's (DLR) Überflieger 2 competition. The Glücksklee  project impressed with an idea that almost sounds like science fiction: the study of a symbiosis of clover with root bacteria makes a contribution to research into self-fertilising plants. These could change life on board for astronaut crews.

"We have lift off"

The interdisciplinary Glücksklee team used the time intensively to prepare their experiment. In a 10x10x20 centimetre box, the experiment will now be carried out autonomously for 30 days in the Tango Lab of the ISS and observed with a camera. To do this, the students bring the clover plant Medicago truncatula together with the soil bacterium Sinorhizobium melilot: The bacteria will nest in the roots of the clover and thus be supplied with nutrients. In return, they supply nitrogen to the plant, which can do without mineral nitrogen fertiliser. The students want to find out to what extent this symbiosis is disturbed under the conditions of microgravity. To do this, they will comprehensively analyse the plants after their return. The results of the experiment could be of great importance, especially for long-distance missions, as they open up a new source of food "fresh out of the box" for the crew on board.

Join the SpaceX CRS-27 rocket launch on Wednesday 15 March at 1:00 (CET): NASA live

Ten students form the "Glücksklee" team. The focus is on plant biotechnology, so the Glücksklee team is based at the Institute of Plant Genetics, in the Department of Plant Genome Research, where they are supervised by the head of the laboratory Dr. Natalija Hohnjec and Prof. Dr. Helge Küster​​​.​ They receive support for the technical implementation from the departments of Mechanical Engineering, Institute of Product Development and Device Construction, and Computer Science, Institute of Microelectronic Systems.