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Can Potatoes Really Grow On Mars?

Researchers planted potatoes in conditions like those on Mars to see if the tubers could survive extreme conditions.
Posted at 2:41 PM, Mar 09, 2017

Astronaut Mark Watney (the character Matt Damon plays in "The Martian") might have been onto something.

The International Potato Center sponsored an experiment to see if spuds can grow on Mars. It seems they probably can.

Researchers planted a potato in a sealed container simulating Mars' climate. They used dirt from a Peruvian desert deemed "the most Mars-like soils found on Earth," and potato sprouts started growing in less than a week.

Beyond determining if taters could grow on Mars, researchers wanted to know if they could also grow in extreme climates on Earth.

The United Nations reports about 795 million people globally were undernourished in 2015. That number is down from previous years, but climate change could reverse that trend.

Ocean acidification, rising temperatures, land degradation and other effects can make it hard to grow crops and raise animals like we do now. Also, global food demand is growing.

That's not to say growing potatoes on the red planet will solve global famine, but it could be a step in the right direction if the effects of climate change aren't reversed or halted.

The next phase of the potatoes on Mars project is to test which kinds of tubers grow best.