Russian polar explorers successfully grow watermelons in Antarctica

Russian polar explorers have successfully grown a batch of watermelons at Vostok station in Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, as part of an innovative experiment. The Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) published a report on the successful project, which was realized by joint efforts of the AARI, the Agrophysical Research Institute and the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The experiment, named “Plants”, was aimed at creating favorable conditions for plants in the harsh conditions of Antarctica. To create ideal conditions for plants, such as air temperature and humidity, the scientists used a phytotechnical complex specially developed by the Agrophysical Institute. A thin-layer soil substitute, nutrient solutions and specially selected lighting were used to grow two varieties of early-ripening watermelons capable of adapting to low atmospheric pressure and lack of oxygen.

The flowers were hand-pollinated at the end of May, and already in July the polar explorers were able to taste the first fruits. The whole process took 103 days. The results of the experiment were impressive: the fruits reached 13 cm in diameter and weighed up to 1 kg.

The taste and aroma are no worse than at home!” – said Andrei Teplyakov, leading geophysicist of the AARI, who led the project at Vostok station.

According to AARI Director Alexander Makarov, in addition to the scientific interest and practical benefits of fresh vegetables, berries and herbs, the joint project has “a number of important additional advantages”. The greenhouse at the station has a positive effect on the emotional state of polar explorers, many of whom spend months in an isolated collective under conditions of polar night, low temperature and limited living space.

The experiment has opened up new possibilities for growing fresh produce in extreme conditions and could lead to future developments in sustainable agriculture. The team’s next goal is to develop technology to grow blackberries, blueberries and strawberries.

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