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Target Partners With CASIS to Find Sustainable Cotton Solutions in Space

A new environmental initiative could create a more sustainable future for cotton.

On Wednesday, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced a new cotton sustainability challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, where researchers can propose solutions to improve crop production and submit their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The challenge, which is slated to run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1, will form breakthrough solutions for eco-friendly cotton production in upcoming years.

“The ISS National Laboratory provides researchers an unmatched ability to look at variables in new and novel manners,” CASIS director of commercial innovation Cynthia Bouthot said. “Additionally, the ability to partner with Target to enhance global humanitarian efforts and gain insight into ways microgravity can improve cotton sustainability will bring great value and benefit for life on Earth.”

[Read more on fiber sustainability: Recycled Review: What’s Happening With Post-Consumer Recycled Fibers, Traceability and Consumer Contribution]

What this means is: testing cotton fibers in space could reveal things about the plant and possibly provide new perspectives on crop production and water usage. As CASIS explained, “In the absence of gravity, researchers can observe plant adaptation—changes in physiology, behavior and development—to a new environment never before experienced by the plant.”

Because water stress is heightened when there’s little gravity, researchers may be able to see reduce requirements for natural resources and improve plant yield.

With the challenge, CASIS and Target aim to improve cotton sustainability by using the International Space Station as an R&D testing platform. Winning proposals will be granted up to $1 million in funding to send their concepts to space. At ISS National Lab, the challenge will facilitate cotton sustainability solutions that may include plant biology, remote sensing technologies and water technology projects.

CASIS hasn’t posted an official application yet, but researchers are encouraged to submit ideas focused on cotton or plant germination, different cultivars of cotton genetics, fluid flow, fluid dynamics, gene expression and water uptake. Data collected from selected experiments will be provided to the public and aim to collectively improve cotton production worldwide in upcoming years.