London, May 13 : Scientists have said that vegetables grown in zero gravity conditions in space can grow up to huge sizes, which could help solve the world's food crisis.
According to a report in The Telegraph, it is thought that the near zero gravity conditions in space result in super-sized fruit and vegetables with a higher vitamin content.
This was also observed when Chinese 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.
On their return, they were cultivated in giant Chinese hothouses producing oversized specimens, along with a host of other fruit and vegetables, like pumpkins, two-foot long cucumbers, 6.3 kg aubergines, and chilli plants which resemble small trees. lso struggling for space in giant hothouses at the Guandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences are 9.5 kg tomatoes and enormous watermelons.
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.
According to researcher Lo Zhigang, "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," he added.
Crucially, the plants are said to produce harvests, which are ten to 20 per cent higher than normal - offering a rich source of food.
Though it is not fully understood that how does sending seeds into space produces such enormous fruits, it is thought cosmic radiation, micro-gravity and magnetic fields may play a part.