Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Thanksgiving in space may one day come with all the trimmings

Date:
November 24, 2011
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
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. Agricultural researchers have now developed methods for growing sweet potatoes that reduce the required growing space while not decreasing the amount of food that each plant produces.

Gioia Massa, a former Purdue postdoctoral researcher, measures the length of a sweet potato plant. In the background, other plants are climbing cages that minimize their area requirements, making them a possible crop that could be grown in space.
Credit: Mitchell Laboratory

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. The original article was written by Brian Wallheimer. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gioia D. Massa, Cary A. Mitchell. Sweet Potato Vine Management for Confined Food Production in a Space Life-Support System. Advances in Space Research, 2011

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Thanksgiving in space may one day come with all the trimmings." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121142505.htm>.
Purdue University. (2011, November 24). Thanksgiving in space may one day come with all the trimmings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121142505.htm
Purdue University. "Thanksgiving in space may one day come with all the trimmings." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121142505.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins