WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., May 4 (UPI) — Purdue University horticulturists say they’ve found a strawberry variety that might be a good candidate to feed astronauts on long space missions.
Professor Cary Mitchell and researcher Gioia Massa said astronauts might one day tend their own crops during long missions. The scientist tested several cultivars of strawberries and found one, called Seascape, that requires little maintenance and energy.
They said Seascape strawberries are day-neutral, meaning they aren’t sensitive to the length of available daylight to flower. Seascape was tested with as much as 20 hours of daylight and as little as 10 hours and while there were fewer strawberries with less light, each berry was larger and the volume of the yields was statistically the same.
“I was astounded that even with a day-neutral cultivar we were able to get basically the same amount of fruit with half the light,” Mitchell said.
The researchers said Seascape is also a good candidate because the plans are relatively small, meeting NASA mass and volume restrictions. And since Seascape provides fewer, but larger, berries in a short period of time, there is less labor required of crew members who would have to pollinate and harvest the plants by hand.
“We’re trying to think of the whole system — growing food, preparing it and getting rid of the waste,” Massa said. “Strawberries are easy to prepare and there’s little waste.”
The study appears in the early online edition of the journal Advances in Space Research.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.