Wheat yield potential in controlled-environment vertical farms (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA)

When I think of vertical farms, I imagine baby lettuces and basil: small, leaf crops that benefit from growing close to the consumer. Here, Asseng et al. evaluate the potential to grow wheat, a staple seed crop, in a vertical farm system. Previous studies have demonstrated that wheat can be grown successfully indoors and can reach maturity earlier due to optimal lighting and temperature. Here, the authors model the potential yields if growth were further supported by elevated CO2 and optimal nutrition, as well as the absence of pests and pathogens. They show that the potential yields from an indoor vertical farm could be as much as 600 times that of an average outdoor field and note that water and nutrients can be recycled and so used more effectively. However, the energy costs are prohibitive to make such a system economically viable at this time, although a solar-energy powered “wheat factory” could be a way to supplement variable and low yields in sunny arid regions. (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 10.1073/pnas.2002655117