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Chinese researchers grow vegetables in South Pole during expedition

For the first time, Chinese scientists taking part in a 400-day South Pole research expedition can eat fresh vegetables grown regularly on-site.

world Updated: Feb 27, 2016 11:36 IST
PTI
For the first time, Chinese scientists taking part in a 400-day South Pole research expedition can eat fresh vegetables grown regularly on-site.
For the first time, Chinese scientists taking part in a 400-day South Pole research expedition can eat fresh vegetables grown regularly on-site.(China Internet Information Center)

For the first time, Chinese scientists taking part in a 400-day South Pole research expedition can eat fresh vegetables grown regularly on-site.

The researchers can eat fresh vegetables grown regularly on-site, Wang Zheng, the grower who came home last month after the mission in Antarctica, said.

Growing vegetables in Antarctica reminded him of The Martian, a sci-fi movie about an astronaut who survives alone on Mars by eating potatoes he grows there, Wang said Friday from his home in Shangrao, Jiangxi province.

Wang said the growth chamber at the Zhongshan Station, China’s second research station in Antarctica, had only a low yield when it was established in 2013.

The amount was too small to make it possible for researchers to have vegetable dishes.

To increase the yield, Wang said, he reduced the number of vegetable varieties and focused on only some fast-growing ones, which makes the output stable.

As a result, during much of his stay there, at least one vegetable dish, such as cucumbers, lettuce or cabbage, was served at every meal for a group of 18 researchers working there.

Wang, an orthopedist, said he knew nothing about botany or farming before he arrived at the station in December, 2014.

“I was given this job probably because my office is next to the growth chamber, and as a doctor, I had more spare time than others,” Wang was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.

He considered many factors, such as light, temperature and humidity. Light music is played in the 16-square-metre greenhouse around the clock.

“Mild music is good for vegetable growth,” he said.

“We also played Buddhist music, which has soft melody,” he said.

“Growers before me did very good work. My job was to maintain the chamber and keep everything working,” he said.

Before the harvest, researchers had a very limited vegetable supply for the mission, mostly potatoes and cabbage, which taste awful after months of storage.

“The Russian station is only one kilometer away from ours. We even had enough vegetables to invite our Russian colleagues for dinner,” he said.