Vertical farms will increase the yield of wheat in 600 times

Growing wheat on vertical farms in strictly controlled conditions it is possible to enhance its productivity several hundred times compared to traditional agriculture. If you place the containers with this grain in ten layers, the grain output will increase by 600 times, and if something is already six thousand. As noted by the authors in an article for the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, because of its high cost, this approach is unlikely to be able to compete with the cultivation of wheat in the open field. However, it is perfect for regions where the climate is ill-suited for this culture.

Wheat (Triticum spp.) among the most important agricultural crops. According to some estimates, this cereal provides up to 20 percent of protein and calories in the human diet. To feed a growing global population, wheat production must increase — but to make it easy. A territory best suited to its climatic conditions severely degraded, and the use of increasing amounts of fertilizers and pesticides threaten the environment. Global climate change only exacerbate the problem.

One solution could be the cultivation of wheat under controlled conditions of greenhouses. Experiments have demonstrated that this culture feels good in artificial light and constant temperature of 23 degrees Celsius. Being literally under greenhouse conditions, wheat goes from planting to maturity in just 70 days.

A team of researchers led Paul Gaultier (Paul P. G. Gauthier) from Princeton University decided to assess the maximum yields of wheat when grown indoors. For this, they used two computer models, DSSAT-NWheat and more simple SIMPLE. They are already successfully used for forecasting yields of wheat in the fields in China, Australia and the Netherlands.

The authors gave their model-hour intense light and high carbon dioxide concentration (1200 ppm) and seamless transfer of nutrients. Given that in such environments the wheat can give five harvests per year, its yield will amount to 114 tons per hectare. Additional efforts, for example, the creation of varieties adapted for enclosed spaces, could theoretically increase this figure to 194 tons. This is much higher than the known figures of the wheat harvest in any region of the world.

When growing plants in greenhouses often use the technique of vertical farming, that is, place trays on top of each other for more efficient use of space. If we apply this approach to wheat, the construction of ten layers (each one meter) is expected to 1940 tonnes of wheat per hectare. It is 600 times more than the average for the world. This system scales quite easily: for example, 100 layers provide already 19400 ton harvest per hectare per year.

The authors, however, proceed with caution, prospects for the vertical cultivation of wheat. They point to the high cost of this approach and the fact that real yields can be significantly lower than the theoretical calculations. However, a vertical wheat farm would receive wide dissemination in the regions where mass cultivation of this crop in the fields is impossible because of limited water and soil resources. These include, for example, a desert region of the Middle East.

One of the major threats to wheat production are insect pests. As climate change they are becoming more numerous and voracious. According to some calculations, even with the safe scenario, the annual loss of wheat harvest reached 59 million tons at the current production volume in 749,4 million tons.

Sergey Knee High

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