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Potatoes have been grown in conditions similar to those found on Mars

Straight out of the plot of 2015 film The Martian, scientists in Peru managed the feat.
Mar 30th 2017, 2:40 PM 9,832 35

SCIENTISTS IN PERU have managed to successfully grow a potato plant in conditions similar to those that are found on Mars.

Echoing the plot of the 2015 film The Martian, starring Matt Damon, researchers at the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Lima managed to grow the potatoes in Mars-like conditions by creating a simulator with below-zero temperatures, high carbon monoxide concentrations and the air pressure that would be found at an altitude of 6,000 metres.

The researchers believe that their experiments show that potatoes could one day be grown on Mars.

“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,” said research associate Julio Valdivia-Silva.

A joint initiative from CIP, the University of Engineering and Technology in Lima (UTEC) and Nasa in the US, it is also believed the findings could benefit crop growth in arid areas here on Earth that have been affected by climate change.

Source: CIP International Potato Center/YouTube

As part of the experiment, soil was transported from Pampas de le Joya, along Peru’s southern coast.

The area receives less than a millimetre of rain a year, mirroring the parched ground of Mars.

A total of 65 varieties of potato were planted, with four sprouting up from the soil.

They’ve named the variety of potato that sprouted highest “Unique”.

Dr Julio Valdivia from UTEC said: “It’s a super potato that resists very high carbon dioxide conditions and temperatures that get to freezing.”

Further tests are planned, with three more simulators set to test if the humble potato can grow in the most extreme of circumstances, with the amount of carbon dioxide in the air set to be increased.

Read: ‘Life is left up to you’: NUIG researcher delves into her Mars simulation mission

Read: NASA scientists to spend eight months in Hawaiian dome for ‘Mars simulation’

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Sean Murray


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