Russian scientists have succeeded in growing watermelons in the coldest place on the planet the Vostok Antarctic station using panopony, or soilless technology, Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) said on Monday.
AARI said in a statement “Scientists of the 68th Russian Antarctic Expedition of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute together with their colleagues from the Agrophysical Research Institute and the Institute for Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences successfully completed the first experiment on growing melons at the Antarctic station. Vostok the coldest place on Earth”.
Polar scientists managed to grow eight “ripe and sweet” melons in 103 days using soilless panoponic technology.
AARI director Alexander Makarov says “In addition to the scientific interest and direct practical benefits in the form of fresh vegetables, forest fruits and herbs, our joint project has a number of other important advantages. The greenhouse on the station has a positive effect on the emotional state of polar explorers, who spend many months as an isolated group in the conditions of the polar night, low temperatures and limited living space”.
The institute also announced plans to develop technology to grow blackberries, blueberries and strawberries in Antarctica.
An experiment to grow vegetable crops at the Vostok station called “Rastenia” (plants in Russian) has been underway since February 2020. Last season, Russian polar explorers grew about 62 pounds of tomatoes and 20 pounds of pepper.
One of the goals of the experiment is to test plant growing technologies for a base on the moon.
Vostok is the only year-round inland Russian station in Antarctica. In July 1983, it recorded the lowest air temperature on the planet – negative 89.2 degrees Celsius (negative 128.5 degrees Fahrenheit).