"Martian" potatoes gave their first shoots

One of the main problems that the first Martian colonists will face is food. The supplies brought with them will probably be limited. Under these conditions, there is a natural need to grow food directly on Mars, in conditions of destructive radiation, a rarefied atmosphere and sharp temperature changes.

The International Potato Center (CIP), together with NASA, back in 2016, initiated the launch of the unique Potatoes on Mars project. The main research is carried out in the de la Hoya desert in southern Peru, where the most dehydrated soil on Earth is located, which has a certain resemblance to Martian soil.

To carry out one of the experiments, a special sealed container was selected inside the CubeSat satellite, where conditions close to Martian were created. Inside the chamber, LEDs are installed that simulate solar radiation and a controller to simulate sudden temperature changes that are characteristic when the Martian time of day changes. Scientists also have the ability to regulate air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

The first encouraging results have been achieved: The potatoes are rooted and grow in desert soil inside the CubeSat. The greatest successes are associated with salt tolerant varieties developed under an ongoing project. One of them performed well in the lowlands of the subtropics, as well as in the coastal regions of Bangladesh.

Scientists are trying to figure out both the possibility of growing potatoes on Mars and in extreme terrestrial conditions. If successful, it will be possible to tackle food security challenges in hungry countries.