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  • Peru is home to a diversity of native potato varieties.

    Peru is home to a diversity of native potato varieties. | Photo: EFE

More than 4,000 potato varieties are native to the Andean highlands of Peru and neighboring countries Bolivia and Ecuador.

A team of scientists at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, has identified a hardy potato variety that could grow on Mars.

The Potatoes on Mars project, which is being developed with assistance from NASA, managed to grow potatoes using nutrient-enriched water inside a heremetically sealed vessel called the CubeSat, researcher Julio Valdivia-Silva told EFE.

The CubeSat allowed scientists to subject the potato variety to extreme conditions similar to those on the Red Planet, Valdivia-Silva said.

"The most important result is that this suggests we are going to be able to cultivate a potato, in a controlled manner, in conditions similar to Mars," the researcher said.

The potatoes grew in soil with 30 percent salinity, a level similar to that on Mars, and a 10 percent CO2 concentration, with temperatures between -5 and 20 degrees Celcius.

The atmosphere on Mars has a 95 percent CO2 concentration and the temperature can drop to -60 degrees Celcius, Valdivia-Silva said.

The project's second phase calls for subjecting this potato variety to conditions similar to those in Mars' atmosphere.

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