Whole countries (or even a Hollywood star on Mars) have relied on the potato.
The chips were down when Matt Damon, marooned on the Red Planet, discovers his only of bag of spuds and propagates a life-saving crop within his space hut.
The potato has the accolade as being the first ever crop grown in space. It certainly provided this A-lister, aka ‘space pirate‘, with his nutritious fresh food. Perhaps they took the lead from the guy who ate just spuds for 2 months (the BBC reported that there were no ‘strange side-effects’). A food not currently found amongst the ‘leafy greens’ on astronauts’ menus on Nasa missions.
Back to the Martian. We love our connection to the soil. Damon could have gone all hydroponic – lettuce grown in space – but our film star got down dirty mixing inert planet dust with freeze-dried human manure direct from the ‘can’ to grow his crop.
Thank goodness the stark Martian atmosphere kept potato blight at bay. A virus which had a tragic impact on the Irish population in the mid 19th potato famine which killed a million people. The virus is still an Achilles heel of some commercial organic farming when a ‘heavy metal’, copper sulphate, is required to control blight. Blight resistant potatoes and GM blight resisting tubers are evolving.
Before we are forced to take a tough trip to another planet, we could be more careful in how we husband our own environment. Not put all our spuds in one basket, and embrace as many ways to grow food as possible.
2021 – Nasa back on Mars