Potato Tuber Formation and Metabolism in the Spaceflight Environment
Five potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) leaf cuttings were flown on STS-73 in late October, 1995 as part of the 16-day USML-2 mission. Pre-flight studies were conducted to study tuber growth, determine carbohydrate concentrations and examine the developing starch grains within the tuber. In these tests, tubers attained a fresh weight of 1.4 g tuber-1 after 13 days. Tuber fresh mass was significantly correlated to tuber diameter. Greater than 60% of the tuber dry mass was starch and the starch grains varied in size from 2 to 40 mm in the long axis. For the flight experiment, cuttings were obtained from seven-week-old Norland potato plants, kept at 5°C for 12 hours then planted into arcillite in the ASTROCULTURE™ flight hardware. The flight package was loaded on-board the orbiter 22 hours prior to launch.