Japanese researchers have grown cucumbers in space.

A team from Tohoku University have untangled the competing influences of water and gravity on plant roots - by growing cucumbers at the International Space Station.

Plant roots grow to find water using a process known as hydrotropism. Roots are also influenced by gravity and tend to grow downwards, called gravitropism.

To find out whether gravity or water had the greater influence on root growth, investigators grew cucumber plants in the microgravity environment on board the International Space Station.

In their experiments, they found water (or hydrotropism) had more influence in controlling root growth.

“We will be able to utilise roots’ ability to sense moisture gradients for controlling root growth orientation and efficiently growing plants in future space farms,” said Dr. Hideyuki Takahashi, senior author of the New Phytologist study.

Their latest paper is accessible here.