Biology

Scientists plan to grow potatoes under Martian conditions

Scientists plan to grow potato...
The experiment will use soil from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, which is almost identical to that found on Mars
The experiment will use soil from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, which is almost identical to that found on Mars
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The experiment will use soil from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, which is almost identical to that found on Mars
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The experiment will use soil from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, which is almost identical to that found on Mars

A newcollaborative project between the International Potato Center (CIP)and NASA will see a crop of potatoes grown on Earth under the sameconditions found on the Red Planet. The effort is not only a big steptowards the goal of one day constructing a controlled farming dome onMars, but will also demonstrate the potential of growing potatoes ininhospitable environments back home – something that theresearchers hope will help tackle world hunger.

If mankind isever to establish a colony on Mars, it'll first have towork out how to create a sustainable food source. We've seenproposals in the past that aim to test whether crops will grow on theRed Planet, but a lot more work needs to be done before a viable solution emerges.

To prepare forthe inevitably tricky endeavour, Peru-based research and developmentorganization CIP is planning on conducting a dry run back home. Theteam will use soil from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, whichis almost identical to that found on Mars. The researchers will growthe crop in a laboratory environment that mimics the atmosphericconditions of the Red Planet, where the atmosphere is close to 95percent carbon dioxide.

Quite asidefrom being a great way to start preparing for the challenges of growingcrops on a different planet, the project is also designed to have animpact back home, raising awareness of the impressive resilience ofpotatoes.

More than 842million people are currently affected by famine around the globe. Theteam believes that potatoes' ability to grow in even the mostinhospitable of climates makes them the ideal contender to put areal dent in that number. Furthermore, they're not just good atgrowing under difficult conditions, but also provide extremely highyields (two to four times that of a regular grain crop) and areextremely nutritious, being a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin C,and more.

"How betterto learn about climate change than by growing crops on a planet thatdied two billion years ago?" asks CIP's Joel Ranck. "We needpeople to understand that if we can grow potatoes in extremeconditions like those on Mars, we can save lives on Earth."

Source: CIP

13 comments
ugetridofit
Gotta Love NASA and their stupidity in wasting money. Cant even put a man on Mars yet but hey who cares lets try to grow some potatoes at the tax payers expense and see how it goes. World hunger....Ahhh.... who cares about solving problems here on earth where we live, that's just to boring. I would rather play with a robot rover on the mars that costs 2 billion.
Bob
Somebody must have seen the movie "The Martian". Lack of water, temperature extremes and radiation will not make success very easy on Mars. Matt Damon would never have survived actual Martian conditions. It made for good scifi but it was mostly fiction. Potatoes have already prevented world hunger but the potato famine showed how vulnerable they were.
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
@ugetridofit What a puzzling comment. Research on growing a sustainable crop on arid land found both on Earth and Mars is a win-win situation no matter how you look at it. In fact, it is a necessity if you plan to start a colony on Mars, because it is a one-way trip as it is now. You can't completely rely on supply drops from home when it is 56 million kilometres away on its closest distance.
UncleToad
If they can find a way to mine salt and brew their own vinegar, they could open the first Martian chip shop! :-)
Adrien
Growing crops, cool... but why potatoes? So we can all get Type 2 diabetes on Mars as well?
AGO
Potatos??!!!!. The last thing you want to grow to end world hunger is a high starch, high glycemic food! Carb dominated diets are stupid! If you want to enhance performance, both physically and mentally and for prolonged periods of time with no food, you should keto adapt. Oh, wait, nasa and the navy are already doing this for astronauts and navy seals. Maybe it's a big secret that no one should know! Forget I said anything! Destroy this post quickly!!!
Cyberxbx
Do you thing GM crops will be allowed on mars? I'm sure Mansanto has enough money to fund an entire planet-wide farming project... that way they could get their wish of owning ALL LIFE ON A PLANET.
Powell Gammill
Well it is nice to see a potato institute has figured out how to bilk taxpayers out of some of their stuff with NASA's assistance. First, NASA has no idea what Mars' soil is like because no one has ever gone there and returned with any soil to study thoroughly. Even if they did it would be most applicable only to the area collected (and carefully preserved). Yes, analysis from orbit, from Earth, from limited experiments on landers, and form meteorites likely ejected from catastrophic meteor impacts from Mars can give a lot of clues as to what soil is like on the surface of Mars. But it certainly does not tell everything. What toxins, inhibitory substances or missing substances required for growth exist in the soils (note plural depending upon geographic location) of Mars? To claim either Earth soil endemic to a region or simulated Mars soil (which is available but apparently not part of the grant) is anywhere near what is present on Mars is an exaggeration. Astronauts will be better served growing food underground, aquaponically avoiding the whole issue of Martian sun availability, greenhouse surface exposure and Martian soil issues. Fish embryos can be frozen until needed. LED lighting. The other issue is the 9 month journey there and what to grow in zero gravity.
Stephen N Russell
Good to test then sample eating said vegetables, then reproduce for us on Mars.
Don Duncan
Bob: Potatoes are not "vulnerable". They are extremely hardy. The potato famine was the result of agricultural ignorance. One variety was used, taken from (possibly?) one plant. All the crops in Ireland had the same genetics. There was no crop rotation, no companion planting, and a mono-crop economy. This is a prescription for failure. It was only a matter of time before disaster. Peru has over a dozen varieties, uses intelligent farming practices, and has had no problem for thousands of years.