Remember that scene from The Martian where Matt Damon was living off of potatoes he grew on Mars?
That actually might become a reality in the very near future (the potatoes part, that is).
Researchers at Peru's University of Engineering and Technology planted 65 different varieties of potatoes in an emulated version of Mars's soil to see if any could viably grow. Four were able to grow, but one thrived better than others and demonstrated a strong possibility that we could grow this potato — now dubbed the "Unique" potato — on the Red Planet.
Unlike the movie, where the potatoes were just grown in the soil, the researchers grew the potatoes initially in a controlled environment identical to that on Mars. After initial testing, they planted the potato varieties in a desert environment with a mixture of crushed rock and nutrients to see which grew best. The Unique potato stood out among the rest, according to Food Processing-Technology.
"The extraordinary efforts of the team have set the bar for extraterrestrial farming," said NASA Ames planetary scientist Chris McKay about the project. "The idea of growing food for human colonies in space could be a reality very soon.”
Apart from the viability of potatoes on Mars, the research also had a secondary purpose: to publicize potatoes as a way to combat global hunger. Potatoes are actually a great crop to grow in harsh soils, and provide iron, vitamin C, and zinc. With global warming conditions as they are, we need some agricultural solutions, and fast.
This research means that we may have an alternative: growing potatoes in harsh, arid climates, including desert-like areas... and Mars.
Yes, potatoes on Mars may be the key to solving world hunger. It's literally an out-of-this-world solution, but pressing times call for innovative answers.