We, humans, exhale, sweat, release toxins in different ways, but how do plants perform this action? Is it common to all the living beings or not? NASA has initiated a project on the International Space Station where water plant on earth shall be tracked. The installation of the instrument called ECOSTRESS – Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment will help track water usage by plants life on earth.
The instrument will measure the temperature differences of the plants while they transpire. Just like human body releases sweat to avoid overheating, plants take up water through the roots and free it from the pores on their surface. This brings down their temperature to normal.
In the absence of sufficient water, plants close these poses to avoid drying out. However, they cannot keep the pores closed for too long as the process of photosynthesis is hindered and vital energy is not created. Owing to prolonged water stress, the plants die because of overheating or starving.
Simon Hook, an ECOSTRESS principal investigator at NASA, stated that when a plant turns brown, it is often too late for it to recover. Scientists wish to study the impact of water stress and spot signs for it, as this can help predict a drought long before it is known. Understanding the minute details and effects of Water stress can help farmers in keeping a plan-B ready. A plant’s water intake has already been studied using electric solar leaf sensors, but ECOSTRESS will enable the scientists to predict the yield, the stress level of crops and inform about the impact of temperature.
Martha Anderson, who is an ECOSTRESS science team member working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that - "Even short-term moisture stress if it occurs during a critical stage of crop growth, can significantly impact productivity."
On June 29, the instrument will be taken to ISS. The launch will take place at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX has prepared for the launch, and if everything goes by the plan, images and temperatures of different farmlands may help keep track of water resources. This would help in knowing which part of the ecosystem is more vulnerable and how to tackle the water stress. The data will be studied using the NASA’s Earth Observatory Satellite as well, and together this information can give a better understanding of climate patterns in various regions. Even the vegetation changes can be studied using this instrument.