CULTURAL SYSTEMS FOR GROWING POTATOES IN SPACE
However potatoes have a growth pattern that complicates the development of growing the plants in controlled systems. Tubers are borne on underground stems that are botanically termed 'rhizomes', but in common usage termed 'stolons'. The stolons must be maintained in a dark, moist area with sufficient provision for enlargement of tubers. Stems rapidly terminate in flowers forcing extensive branching and spreading of plants so that individual plants will cover 0.2 m2 or more area. Thus the growing system must be developed to provide an area that is darkened for tuber and root growth and of sufficient size for plant spread.
A system developed for growing potatoes, or any plants, in space will have certain requirements that must be met to make them a useful part of a life support system.
The system must 1) be constructed of materials, and involve media, that can be reused for many successive cycles of plant growth, 2) involve a minimum quantity of media, 3) contain media that is essentially inert and not oxidize or degrade with use, 4) utilize a recirculating nutrient solution to permit regulation of pH and nutrient concentrations, and 5) be capable of complete automation of all planting, maintenance and harvesting procedures.