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Space-faring plants provide insight about tree growth


November 24, 2009
By Pulp & Paper Canada

The first Canadian botanical experiment destined for the International Space Station took flight on Nov. 17. T…

The first Canadian botanical experiment destined for the International Space Station took flight on Nov. 17. The APEX-Cambium experiment will use 24 willow saplings to help determine the role gravity plays in the formation of wood. The knowledge gained from the space-faring saplings will help improve understanding of the fundamental biological processes in trees, which the Canadian Space Agency says “is expected to benefit the lumber and pulp and paper industries in achieving more uniform and higher quality products.”

Rodney Savidge, a University of New Brunswick tree physiologist, is principal investigator for the project. He says that relatively little of forestry research focuses on the basic physiology of trees.

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Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk will tend the trees during the 30-day experiment, after which the well-travelled specimens will return to Earth. A group of saplings will be grown in similar conditions on Earth, so that the only variable between the two groups is the weight produced by gravity.


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