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  • MIT Researcher Caleb Harper Is Altering the Taste of Basil through Climate

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See the news MIT Researcher Caleb Harper Is Altering the Taste of Basil through Climate from Source Guardian on 16/04/2019 has been updated to day with the theme on feedixo.

MIT Researcher Caleb Harper Is Altering the Taste of Basil through Climate

Researchers in MIT’s Open Agriculture Initiative grow basil under controlled environmental conditions to study how taste and other features are affected. Melanie Gonick/MITBig Ag doesn’t care about flavor.Why? When it comes to growing crops for profit, size and quantity are far more important than flavor or nutritional value. That’s why the tomatoes at your local grocery store are gigantic, but typically taste like wet cardboard.The tendency for plants of larger size to be less-nutrient dense is what researchers call the “dilution effect.” Because there’s sometimes an overlap in the compounds for both nutrition and flavor, this means the higher-yield crops of our industrial agriculture system are often less tasty than the veggies you grow in your backyard.But what if it didn’t have to be like this? What if industrial farms could reliably cultivate produce without compromising how they taste?Caleb Harper, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Media Lab and director of the OpenAg group, has been purposely changing the stresses on basil plants to impact their flavor. “If you took the same basil seed and you put in 50 different countries, you would have started with the same genetics but you would get 50 different flavors,” he told Digital Trends. What he and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found is that exposing basil to light 24 hours a day produced the most flavor molecules or volatile compounds. The results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.“[It’s] kind of amazing that we could design flavor from climate.”Secondary metabolites are organic compounds that aren’t necessary for plants’ survival. They aren’t required for growth or reproduction, but they can have attributes that dissuade predators from eating the plants. Everything from drought to the presence of certain insects affect the production of these metabolites, which in turn can alter how the plants taste.“We had no hypothesis that a 24-hour light period would help us to get the plant to produce the chemicals that we were interested in,” said Harper. When the researchers chose a length of time to expose the plants to indoor daylight, they opted for 18 hours. They built in a photorest period because plants naturally exist on the diurnal cycle, with alternating daylight and dark.MIT Open Agriculture research lead John de la Parra, left, and Director Caleb Harper. Melanie Gonick/MITThe impetus for testing nonstop light came from machine learning. The algorithms, designed by MIT and Cognizant (which acquired Sentient Technologies), analyzed which light conditions...

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See the news MIT Researcher Caleb Harper Is Altering the Taste of Basil through Climate from Source Guardian on 16/04/2019 has been updated to day with the theme on feedixo.