Could Potatoes Grow On Mars? New Experiments Reveal
Researchers from the International Potato Center (CIP) with the advice from NASA's Ames Research Center conducted experiments to determine if potatoes could grow in the atmosphere of Mars. The experiments suggest that potatoes could possibly grow on Mars.
The potatoes were grown in the soil in the Atacama Desert in Peru, which is like the soil found on Mars. The scientists put the soil and the tuber in the container and placed it to the hermetically sealed CubeSat, which is a small satellite used in space research on Feb. 14, 2017.
The CubeSat delivers nutrient-rich water and adjusts the temperatures based on the atmosphere of Mars. These include the air pressure, carbon dioxide and oxygen. The sensors monitored the conditions and there were two cameras that were recording the growing or sprouting of the potatoes. The results showed that within 10 days the sprouts emerged, according to CBC News.
Julio Valdivia-Silva, a research associate at SETI Institute who has worked at NASA's Ames Research Center, explained that growing crops under Mars-like conditions is a significant phase of this experiment. He further explained that if the crops can tolerate the extreme conditions that they are exposing them to their CubeSat, they have a good chance to grow on Mars. He added that they will do several rounds of experiments to find out which potato varieties do best. They also want to determine the minimum conditions that potato could survive.
Walter Amoros, the CIP potato breeder, said it was a surprise to see the potatoes they have bred to tolerate abiotic stress were able to produce tubers in this soil. He also said that whatever their implications for Mars missions, the experiments have already provided good news about potato's potential for aiding people to survive in extreme environments on Earth. Meanwhile, the scientists concluded that growing potatoes on Mars in the future must have a soil with a loose structure and nutrients that allow the tubers to acquire sufficient air and water to make it tuberize, according to Phys.org.