Sweet Potatoes in Space


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Sweet Potatoes in Space!

 

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Today is that great holiday, Thanksgiving! The family all gathers together at a common table, turns on the television to the current football game, and eats and eats till the "food coma" sets in. Sounds great, too bad the astronauts up in space won't get to have a full thanksgiving meal or will they? Scientists are developing methods in which they will be able to grow sweet potatoes in space!

 

"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."

 

 

sweet potatoe.jpgWhy Sweet Potatoes? Sweet potato has been selected as one of the crops for NASA's Advanced Life Support Program. Sweet potato primarily provides carbohydrate-an important energy source, beta-carotene, and ascorbic acid to a space diet. "recipes for 10 vegetarian products containing from 6% to 20% sweet potato on a dry weight basis (pancakes, waffles, tortillas, bread, pie, pound cake, pasta, vegetable patties, doughnuts, and pretzels) that have been formulated, subjected to sensory evaluation, and determined to be acceptable. These recipes and the other set of recipes were substituted in a 10-day vegetarian menu plan developed by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) Kennedy Space Center Biomass Processing Technical Panel. At least one recipe containing sweet potato was included in each meal."

 

CONES.jpgHow do you grow Sweet Potatoes in space?  The main reason for transporting sweet potatoe plants into space is because of their ability to adapt, even in a controlled environment with artificial sunlight. The NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Advanced Life Support had the dilemma of vine management for sweet potato and addressed this effort to conserve growth area without compromising root yield during their research. Root yields from unbranched vines trained spirally around wire frames configured either in the shapes of cones or cylinders were very similar to those from vines trained horizontally along a bench, but occupying only a small fraction of the bench area. "This finding indicates that sweet potato is highly adaptable to a variety of vine-training architectures. Planting a second plant in the growth container and training the two vines in opposite directions around frames enhanced root yield and number, but had little effect on average length of each vine or bench area occupied. Once again, root yields were similar for both configurations of wire support frames. The 3-4-month crop-production cycles for sweet potato in the greenhouse spanned all seasons of multiple years during the course of the study, and although electric lighting was used for photoperiod control and to supplement photosynthetic light during low-light seasons, these light variations and other environmental differences among experiments in the greenhouse had more effects on vine length than on the important part of the sweet potatoes', the root yield."

 

 

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When will we see Sweet Potatoes in space? With all the articles that I read, no one specifically stated when they would start growing sweet potatoes in space. It doesn't seem too far off, though. Scientists basically know that this vegetable can adapt to being placed in confined spaces and works well with artificial light. Now they need the funding and time to implement their idea into reality.

 

 

 Heres an article to the Thanksgiving in space research!

 All this talk of sweet potatoes I had to find a live video recipe!

 

So class, would it be safe to start growing crops up in space?

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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2 Comments

How about other plants and other crops? It is perfect that sweet potatoes have so many benefits and can be used in so many recipes. Will NASA install a Space Station to grow crops up in space? Any idea how much it is going to cost to all the tax payers? How do the farmers feel about growing sweet potatoes up in space and not down here? What will happen to all the hard working farmers here on our planet earth? It is exiting and yet unreal to think that the next generations will go to the greengrocer up in space to buy sweet potatoes. How about carrots? Carrots are not invasive and its uses are as good as the sweet potatoes. There are so many issues going on in the government at this moment that it isn’t a surprise to know that they are not committed in helping the earth. They should be working on different approaches to recycling and on global warming. Instead of growing sweet potatoes out in space NASA should use the energy to save the planet by planting more trees and stopping deforestation. Don’t give up on our planet. Research is always good and we need to look into the future but by doing so do not forget that we still need our planet to keep growing crops down here.

sweet potatoes are amazing, apparently they're not just delicions, they are engineered to addapt and overcome, a pretty impressive little vegetable!

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