Navigation Links
Thanksgiving in space may one day come with all the trimmings

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. ╨ Future astronauts spending Thanksgiving in space may not have to forgo one of the most traditional parts of the day's feast: fresh sweet potatoes.

Cary Mitchell, a Purdue University professor of horticulture, and Gioia Massa, a former postdoctoral researcher at Purdue, developed methods for growing sweet potatoes that reduce the required growing space while not decreasing the amount of food that each plant produces. Their findings were published in the journal Advances in Space Research.

Sweet potato plants have main vines with many shoots that branch out to the sides. Mitchell said it was common for one plant to cover the entire surface of a 15-by-5-foot greenhouse bench.

"Sweet potato is like an invasive plant. It will take over everything," said Mitchell, who studies the selection of crops that could be grown in space. "That's not acceptable if you're going to grow it in space."

Knowing they needed to contain the plant's horizontal spread, Mitchell and Massa decided to force it to grow vertically. Using cones or cylindrically shaped wire cages, they trained plants' main vines to wrap around the structures while removing the space-consuming side shoots.

"It turns out the vines are not really picky about what you do with them," Massa said. "As long as you leave the main shoot tip alone, you can remove the side shoots and trim them away without any yield loss."

The main shoot tip, or the end of the main vine, is the only really sensitive part. It sends hormones throughout the plant that stimulate root development, which is important since it is the roots that become the sweet potatoes.

The side shoots, if picked when still young, are tender and can be eaten in salads, improving the plant's usefulness, Mitchell said.

On Earth, scientists might want to find ways to get crops to take up less area, focusing on only two dimensions. A tall, skinny corn stalk, for instance, takes up little space in a farm field.

In space, however, that third dimension - height - is important because plants may need to be stacked to use all available space. Using a cone or cylinder is what might make sweet potato a viable space crop. Since the area inside the cages is empty, astronauts could put other plants inside and keep them alive with LED lighting.

The sweet potato plants also weren't particular about lighting or temperature. Mitchell and Massa grew sweet potatoes in greenhouses during different seasons and saw no difference in yield.

"Sweet potato doesn't seem to care what season it is or what conditions it's in," Mitchell said.

Massa said that's important because many different types of crops may have to be grown in the same rooms in space. Picky plants won't fare well with other picky plants having temperature or lighting requirements much different from their own.

"We call it a generalized-growth environment," Massa said. "We're finding the optimum, not the maximum."

Mitchell and Massa said they'd next like to study LED lighting's effect on sweet potato and other crops. NASA funded their research.


Contact: Brian Wallheimer
Purdue University

Related biology news :

1. Caveman behavioral traits might kick in at Thanksgiving table before eating
2. Favorite Thanksgiving dish gets upscale breeding
3. Space shuttle data leads to better model for solar power production in California
4. Space debris, more efficient LEDs, and thinner, cheaper solar cells
5. Micross Components Recognized for Excellence by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems
6. Earth from space: Irenes eye
7. Monitoring ground-level ozone from space
8. Brains map of space falls flat when it comes to altitude
9. Final space shuttle to carry 5 CU-Boulder-built payloads
10. CU-Boulder and NASAs space shuttle program: Triumphs and tragedies
11. Bone loss prevention experiment on the last space shuttle flight
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Thanksgiving in space may one day come with all the trimmings
(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016 On Monday, ... call to industry to share solutions for the Biometric ... U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), explains that CBP ... are departing the United States , ... and to defeat imposters. Logo - ...
(Date:6/16/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 16, 2016 ... size is expected to reach USD 1.83 ... by Grand View Research, Inc. Technological proliferation and ... banking applications are expected to drive the market ... ) , The development of advanced ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... , June 9, 2016 ... Police deploy Teleste,s video security solution to ensure the safety ... France during the major tournament Teleste, ... communications systems and services, announced today that its video security ... to back up public safety across the country. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... WA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... announces the release of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention ... recruitment and retention in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has signed ... to serve as their official health care provider. ... will provide sponsorship support, athletic training services, and ... volunteers, athletes and families. "We are ... and to bring Houston Methodist quality services and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... the launch of the Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., ... the future of how hardware projects are designed, built and brought to market. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Andrew ... Published recently in ... journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz , ... cancer care is placing an increasing burden on ... biologic therapies. With the patents on many biologics ...
Breaking Biology Technology: