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Space tomatos

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posted on May, 17 2009 @ 01:17 PM

By Irene Klotz

What started as a science experiment to grow plants in space has blossomed into a drought-resistant, nutritionally rich tomato — patent pending.
Mariya Khodakovskaya was a researcher at North Carolina State University when she created a genetically altered tomato seed designed to better withstand the rigors of space. The seeds were flown to the International Space Station in August 2007.
Though they successfully germinated, the plants didn't last long.

"The seedlings grew for a short period, and then they got no taller and died," said Chris Brown, a plant biologist at North Carolina State University.
The team strongly suspected that the problem was not microgravity, per se, but adverse growing conditions, such as a lack of air circulation, Brown said.
"We think they died due to a lack of air flow," he said.
The space plants were contained in special chambers designed by BioServe Space Technologies, a non-profit NASA-sponsored research center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The chambers contained a solution of nutrients that would feed the plants as long as there was moisture present.
While the space experiment was a bust, the transgenic seeds blossomed on Earth, producing plants that could survive severe drought.
"Three weeks without water will kill most tomato plants. The transgencis came back, which is really cool and has huge implications for Earth agriculture," Brown told Discovery News.
Khodakovskaya, a plant physiologist who now operates her own lab at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, says she has since developed a new breed that in addition to tolerating draught, produces a leafy plant with fruit high in lycopene, an antioxidant. Researchers believe antioxidants are important in preventing cancer and other chronic diseases.

Khodakovskaya and colleagues at Arkansas State University and the University of Central Arkansas are preparing to patent their technology, which involves adding some new genes to the basic tomato.
The fruit, however, has yet to be put to the ultimate test — taste.
"When we grow the plants we use some chemicals, and I was advised not to eat it," Khodakovskaya told Discovery News.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

posted on May, 17 2009 @ 01:19 PM
So how do you feel this will effect the future of food production? Or is it just another dead end experiment seeing as how they haven't actually eaten that tomato yet.

posted on May, 17 2009 @ 01:29 PM

The team strongly suspected that the problem was not microgravity, per se, but adverse growing conditions, such as a lack of air circulation, Brown said.

Air circulation my #.
Do you know how hard it is to grow plants in space?
Plants are literally the one thing that needs lots of gravity to grow. If they dont have gravity their roots and sprouts dont know which way to grow.

Read this article from a Astronaut himself: Growing Plants in Space

Gravity plays an important role in sending roots down and stems up. Without gravity, every direction is the same. Roots and stems were exiting the seed and growing in any direction within the plane of the spherical surface. The lighting provided an outward growing cue however its effects were small compared to the effects of capillary forces. Capillary forces, subtle in nature and derived from the water interface on the damp layers of gauze, convinced the sprouts to ignore the outward direction of the light and to grow in the surface plane of the sphere. Each sprout had deployed its cotyledons, two miniature leaves that jump-start photosynthesis and provide for the growth of its real leaves. Cotyledons are the drogue chute equivalent before the main canopy is deployed in a parachute system. The capillary forces were overpowering the effect from the outward direction of light. Without gravity's direction, it was as if the sprouts were lazy and decided to give into the subtle capillary forces instead of standing upright to light's beckoning.

It's a great read, I highly suggest you read the whole thing.

posted on May, 17 2009 @ 01:34 PM
interesting. They could make fruits that could grow here in Arizona that normally would not. But again, as they said, would I want to eat it?
Maybe after 10 years of them showing signs of safety .

posted on May, 17 2009 @ 02:02 PM
This is a cool discovery. Now there will be tomatos for everyone!
No more shipping tomatos to desert lands as a delicacy..

Tomatos for African Sahara people YAY!
Tomatos for Arabs. YAY!
Tomatos for the Australian Gibson Desert YAY!
Tomatos for the south American Atacama desert YAY!

Tomato's for everyone can only be a good thing.

posted on May, 17 2009 @ 02:38 PM
reply to post by Tentickles

Waaaaait a minute.....then how does the upside down garden work???

I have one and it grew the tomato plant upside down....and does VERY well!

The roots had zero issue growing in the "wrong direction"

[edit on 17-5-2009 by bismarcksea]

posted on May, 17 2009 @ 03:30 PM
Was your upside down in earth's gravity?

Upside down is still a direction relative to a gravitational force, just because to the plant's relative frame that force is inverted doesn't lessen it's effect. Upside down or not, gravity is still present and it's the presence of gravity which gives the plant a relative frame in which it can base a set of fractal rules encoded in it's DNA which dictate it's growth parameters.

It would be like counting the objects in several groups. You can count all the objects and make a table of results, but if you don't start counting at 1 every time, the numbers mean nothing. Now imagine you're a plant, and "zero" so to speak, is parallel to the gravitational force direction. Now every time you start "counting", or applying the rules of the fractal set, you're starting from the same "zero"

Take the effects of gravity away, or minimize them below that threshold that the plant can utilize as a reference, and all of a sudden zero becomes infinite, and the mathematics governing plant growth will fail.

My question would be, will artificial gravity such as a the centrifugal force of a spinning ring of a greenhouse in space provide enough of a zero plane reference if spun at a speed fast enough to exceed the plant's sensitivity threshold?

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