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Scientists grow potato under Mars-like conditions in Peru

AFP-JIJI

Potatoes on Mars? Scientists are reporting promising results growing the tuber under conditions that mimic the Red Planet in an experiment in Peru linked to U.S. space agency NASA.

“Preliminary results are positive,” the International Potato Center (CIP) said after a potato grew under simulated Mars atmospheric conditions in an experiment in Lima from February 14 to March 5.

The CIP, in a report, said a potato was planted in a specially constructed CubeSat contained environment built by engineers from the University of Engineering and Technology in Lima.

“Growing crops under Mars-like conditions is an important phase of this experiment,” said Julio Valdivia-Silva, a Peruvian astrobiologist at UTEC in Lima.

“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 said, adding that several rounds of experiments will be conducted to find out which potato varieties do best.

The potential ability of potatoes to grow under such conditions could signal promise for food supplies under climate change and extreme environments.

“The results indicate that our efforts to breed varieties with high potential for strengthening food security in areas that are affected, or will be affected by climate change, are working,” said CIP potato breeder Walter Amoros.

The scientists “concluded that future Mars missions that hope to grow potatoes will have to prepare soil with a loose structure and nutrients to allow the tubers to obtain enough air and water to allow it to tuberize,” CIP said.

The CIP experiment is set to last five years.