Potatoes can actually be grown even in the extreme environmental conditions of Mars, according to newer study.
It has its applications for future manned missions to the red planet and helping people to survive in harsh climates.
International Potato Centre (CIP) in Peru has launched a series of experiments.
Their mission is to discover if potatoes can grow under the Mars atmospheric conditions. It is thereby proving that they are also able to grow in extreme climates over Earth.
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This phase two effort of CIP’s proof in simulated Martian conditions began in February during last year.
It was when the tuber was planted in a specially constructed CubeSet. It was conducted by researchers from the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) in Peru.
Potatoes on Mars project was conceived by CIP. That includes to understand how potatoes might grow in Mars conditions. It even includes seeing how they survive in the extreme conditions.
This conditions were comparative to what parts of the world might be suffering from climatic change and weather shocks.
Julio Valdivia-Silva is a research associate at the SETI Institute which is an US based organization.
He adds, “Growing crops under Mars-like conditions is an important phase of this Experiment. If the crops can tolerate the extreme conditions that we are exposing them to in our CubeSat, they have a good chance to grow on Mars.”
He adds, “We will do several rounds of experiments to find out which potato varieties do best. We want to know what the minimum conditions are that a potato needs to survive.” CubeSat houses a container holding soil and the tuber. Inside this hermetically sealed environment the CubeSat is delivering nutrient rich water.
Genetic Capacity of Potato:
It even controls the temperature of Mars day and night conditions and mimics Mars air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Sensors are constantly monitoring these conditions and live streaming cameras record. That includes the soil in anticipation of the potato sprouting.
One of the advantage of potato great genetic capacity for adaption to extreme environments.
CIP has tapped into that capacity by means of breeding potato clones. It tolerates conditions such as soil salinity and drought.
It is in order to help smallholder farmers grow their food in marginal areas which could grow harsher in climatic change.
Chris McKay from NASA says, “This research could have a direct technological benefit on Earth and a direct biological benefit on Earth.”
From the initial experiment, CIP Scientist has concluded that future mission of Mars which hopes to grow potatoes will have to prepare soil with a loose structure.
It will also include nutrients for allowing the tubers for obtaining enough air and water for allowing it to tuberize.
Walter Amoros is a CIP potato breeder. He says, “It was a pleasant surprise to see that potatoes we’ve bred to tolerate abiotic stress were able to produce tubers in this soil.”
Experiments has already provided good news regarding the potential of potato. It will help people to survive in extreme conditions on Earth.