Giant space vegetables ‘could feed the world’

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Arnold Yasin Mol

Giant space vegetables ‘could feed the world’

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Giant space vegetables ‘could feed the world’

Swollen to ten times their normal size and weighing more than an average man, these giant pumpkins would not look out of place in a science fiction film.

And it’s no wonder that they look out of this world, because the seeds from which these monster vegetables were grown spent two weeks orbiting the earth.

On their return they were cultivated in giant Chinese hothouses producing the oversized specimens pictured here, along with a host of other fruit and vegetables.

Scientist hope the pumpkins, as well as two-foot long (06.m) cucumbers, 14lb (6.3kg) aubergines, and chilli plants which resemble small trees, could provide an answer to the world’s food crisis.

It is thought the near zero gravity conditions in space result in super-sized fruit and vegetables with a higher vitamin content.

Crucially, the plants are said to produce harvests which are ten to 20 per cent higher than normal - offering a rich source of food for the country’s 1.3 billion people.

Struggling for space in giant hothouses at the Guandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences are 21lb (9.5kg) tomatoes and enormous watermelons.

Researchers fired off a batch of 2,000 seeds into space in 2006 on the Shijian 8 satellite.

After germination the best specimens were selected for further breeding.

Researcher Lo Zhigang said: “Conventional agricultural development has taken us as far as we can go and demand for food from a growing population is endless.

“Space seeds offer the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables bigger and faster.”

A total of 22 provinces are taking part in the programme, coordinated by the China Academy of Sciences, and China says its giant fruit and vegetables have already been sold to Japan, Thailand and Singapore. There has also been interest from European agricultural firms.

How sending seeds into space produces such enormous fruit is yet not fully understood, but it is thought cosmic radiation, micro-gravity and magnetic fields may play a part.

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