The potato is one of a handful of staple crops that seems virtually indestructible. But what would happen if you put it on Mars? It’d be fine, it turns out, making Hollywood that much more realistic.
Discover Magazine has a good overview of the research done by the International Potato Center, which dedicates itself to studying the humble spud and creating varieties of it that can grow in almost any condition on Earth to help alleviate hunger. So the scientists at the IPT took on the challenge of developing a Mars-friendly tater, since if it can survive on Mars, it’s set to go anywhere on the planet. And believe it or not, they grew.
Granted, you can’t just seed the tubers to Mars and expect to be snacking on chips in a few weeks. They still needed the help of fertilizers, and a little bit of Earth soil, to get going. Still, the potato joins tomatoes, rye, garden cress, radishes, and peas as another vegetable we believe can be grown off the Earth, at least in theory, which makes the chances of getting the heck off this rock for good that much stronger. Of course, hardier, stronger veggies also mean life on Earth will improve, since they can handle whatever Earth throws at them, but hey, you won’t have to give up fries or salad on Mars. Good thing, too, since Congress wants us on the Red Planet by 2039. Now, who do we talk to about breeding a Martian cow?