Vegetables on Ice: Scientists Grow an Entire Salad in Antarctica

By: | April 14th, 2018


Paul Zabel with fresh lettuce. (Image courtesy DLR)

Antarctica’s terrain is made up of glaciers, ice shelves and icebergs. The majority of Antarctica is covered in a permanent ice cap almost three miles thick in some places. Antarctica has no trees or bushes at all — they can’t survive Antarctica’s brutal climate. The only plants that can survive the extreme cold are lichens, fungi, and algae.

But even in such an environment, scientists have succeeded in cultivating vegetables without earth, daylight, or pesticides.

Radishes grown in the greenhouse (DLR)

Vegetables might one day be grown on Mars or the moon

Scientists grew the first vegetables in Antarctica as part of a project designed to help astronauts cultivate fresh food if they should ever make a trip to Mars or elsewhere in deep space.

Researchers at Germany’s Neumayer Station III successfully picked eight pounds (3.6 kilograms) of salad greens, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes. The fresh food was grown inside a high-tech greenhouse as temperatures outside dropped below -20 degrees Celsius or -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The plants were grown using a reusable water cycle and a nutrient system while optimizing LED lighting and monitoring carbon dioxide levels to replicate natural conditions.

Scientists hope to harvest nine to 11 pounds (four or five kilograms) of fruit and vegetables a week by May this year.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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