WASHINGTON (TIP): Scientists plan to grow potatoes in Mars-like conditions simulated on Earth, in a major step towards building a controlled dome on the red planet capable of farming the invaluable crop.

The experiment, led by the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Peru and Nasa, demonstrates that potato can be grown in the most inhospitable environments to save millions of lives.

The goal is to raise awareness of the incredible resilience of potatoes, and fund further research and farming in devastated areas across the globe where malnutrition and poverty are rife and climbing, researchers said.

“We need people to understand that if we can grow potatoes in extreme conditions like those on Mars, we can save lives on Earth,” said Joel Ranck, CIP head of communications.

By using soil almost identical to that of Mars, sourced from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, researchers will replicate Martian atmospheric conditions in a laboratory and grow potatoes.

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Understanding atmospheric changes on the surface of Mars will help build more dynamic and accurate simulation centres on Earth, providing further research for both CIP and Nasa, who are looking to pioneer space farming.

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