Czech lab grows mustard plants for Mars

Science

Scientists check plants inside of an aeroponic growing chamber system as an experiment called Marsonaut at Prague University of Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic, October 30, 2019. REUTERS/David W Cerny

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech scientists have opened a lab to experiment growing food for environments with extreme conditions and lack of water, such as Mars.

The “Marsonaut” experiment by scientist Jan Lukacevic, 29, and his team at the Prague University of Life Sciences is based on aeroponics – growing plants in the air, without soil, and limiting water use to a minimum.

The plants grow horizontally from a vertical unit and are stacked one above the other to minimize space. Researchers experiment with light and temperature changes, Lukacevic said.

The team has already succeeded in growing mustard plants, salad leaves, radishes and herbs like basil and mint.

Scientists ate their first harvest last week. 

“They taste wonderful, because they grow in a controlled environment and we supply them with bespoke nutrients,” said Lukacevic.

Strawberries are the next crop planned.

The main benefit of the growing method is that it uses 95 percent less water than normal plant cultivation and also saves space, which could boost agricultural yields in areas hit by urbanization and climate change.

Reporting by Jiri Skacel; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Dan Grebler

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