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A team of world-class scientists will grow potatoes under Martian conditions in a bid to save millions of lives.

Watch the experiment live from the International Potato Center.
Coming Soon

I am excited to put potatoes on Mars and even more so that we can use a simulated Martian terrain so close to the area where potatoes originated.

Julio E. Valdivia-Silva

SETI Researcher Associate of NASA

How better to learn about climate change, than by growing crops on a planet that died two billion years ago

If we can sustain life on other planets, we can save life on earth

What is CIP?

There are over 4,000 edible varieties of potato, mostly found in the Andes of South America. Potato is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. More than a billion people worldwide eat potato, and global total crop production exceeds 300 million metric tons.

The International Potato Center, known by its Spanish acronym CIP, was founded in 1971 as a root and tuber research-for-development institution delivering sustainable solutions to the pressing world problems of hunger, poverty, and the degradation of natural resources. CIP is headquartered in Lima, Peru and has offices in 20 developing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. CIP seeks to achieve food security, increased well-being, and gender equity for poor people in the developing world. CIP furthers its mission through rigorous research, innovation in science and technology, and capacity strengthening regarding root and tuber farming and food systems.

CIP is part of the CGIAR Consortium, a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. Donors include individual countries, major foundations, and international entities.

Crop of the future

The soil in La Joya Pampas-a sector of the Atacama Desert in southern Peru that's considered one of the driest places on earth-is very similar to that found on the Red Planet.

The scientists plan to transport 200 pounds (100 kilos) of it to a CIP laboratory in Lima that will simulate the complex Martian atmosphere-which contains mostly carbon dioxide-and expose it to extreme ultraviolet radiation.

"We'll have more concrete results in one or two years, Valdivia said, adding that it will take more than five years to launch an unmanned mission to Mars. The potential future space crop is also one of the oldest.
Records of potato cultivation date back to 2500 BC, when the indigenous Aymara Indians farmed it in modern-day Peru and Bolivia. If the varieties selected for next month's experiment don't adapt to the desert soil, the researchers will introduce nutrients and subject them to radiation.

The Team

The Potato on Mars team is a cross-disciplinary cohort of CIP and NASA scientists representing the fields of agriculture, plant breeding, astrobiology, medicine, and physics. Together they are exploring how to grow potatoes on Mars while simultaneously benefiting Farmers of Earth.

Potato Facts

Potatoes are incredibly robust and have the ability to grow in any soil.


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