Science says that crops can grow on the Red Planet, in special facilities, and that potatoes would be a highly recommended crop thanks to its resistance. An experiment in this regard was conducted by the International Potato Center, in Peru, trying to show how the gravity of Mars affects the plants, in the scenario of a possible Mars colonization.
The plants in the experiment were exposed to extreme Martian conditions such as temperature, oxygen levels or atmospheric pressure but the key to all was to find out how would the gravity of the Red Planet affect the plants.
To carry out the study, the researchers used the facilities of the ESA which simulates the conditions experienced by both astronauts and plants during the future manned missions to the Moon or to Mars.
The plant species chosen for this experiment is Arabidopsis Thaliana, a regular in similar tests conducted on the International Space Station.
Plants growth is altered by the gravity of Mars, that being a big problem for a future Mars colonization
The main conclusion is that Arabidopsis Thaliana feels bad in a low-gravity environment as its growth is characterized, under these conditions, by a premature cell division that produces smaller cells.
“The rate of division and growth of its meristematic cells, the stem cells of plants, are strongly decompensated. The alterations of the plants in these conditions, especially in the lunar environment, can be as strong or even superior to those observed in the International Space Station,” explained one of the participants in this experiment.
This study has also analyzed what would happen at the molecular level if we try cultivating on an exoplanet where gravity, for example, is twice as much as the that on the Earth.
And, according to the observations, the growth of the Arabidopsis Thaliana would suffer similar disturbances, although of less intensity than when it is exposed to the lower gravity of the Moon or Mars. The cause why this happens is still being studied by researchers.
In conclusion, plants are altered by the gravity of Mars at a cellular level, and this fact has to be solved out, somehow, before the plans for a future Mars colonization become a reality.