Scientists plan to grow potatoes under Martian conditions
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."