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NASA Tests New Harvest Technique for Farming in Space, Hopes to Increase Crops Aboard ISS

Dec 05, 2016 08:06 AM EST

On Friday, NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have successfully reaped their first harvest which was none other than red romaine lettuce leaves. The vegetables were grown using a plant growth system on board the ISS. This method was part of the space agency's technique called "cut-and-come-again."

"Cut-and-come-again is a repetitive harvest technique in which a selection of leaves can be harvested for a bit of fresh lettuce and possibly science samples," explained NASA in a statement, adding, "The remaining leaves and the core of the plant are left intact and will continue to grow and produce more leaves for subsequent harvests approximately every 10 days."

The goal of NASA's technique hopes to improve the yield of crops that are currently being grown aboard the ISS. With the micro-gravity environment of space, plant roots grow at whichever direction thus causing the absorption of nutrients and water difficult.

With the help of this technique, NASA is expecting four harvests of the red romaine lettuce. The harvest will then be split between crew consumption and samples for science return.

"Testing this method on-orbit, after using it on the ground, is very exciting for us," explained Veggie Project Manager Nicole Dufour, adding, "A repetitive harvest allows us to provide more food for both the crew and for science, so it's a win-win."

This is not the first time plants have been grown aboard the ISS. August of last year, astronauts on the ISS used the same veggie system which was installed in the year 2014. The method had stimulated plant growth through pillows which contained nutrients, fertilizers, and seeds.

With NASA organizing space missions to Mars and asteroids, space farming is becoming a necessity rather than a novelty. Significant advancements to the methods is necessary. In addition, these would help bring innovations when it comes to agriculture on planet Earth.

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