Researchers Successfully Grow 10 Crop Species on Mars, Moon Stimulant Soils

Mar 15, 2016 05:46 AM EDT | By Chandan Das

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Scientists in the Netherlands have been successful in growing more crop species on Mars and moon soil stimulant. Applying what they learnt from their first experiments in growing crops on such soil, the researchers successfully grew and harvested a variety of crops, including tomatoes, radish, peas, cress, rye, quinoa, chives and garden rocket during their second experiment, which was undertaken at the Wageningen University & Research centre in the Netherlands.  

The credit for the success is attributed to plant physiologist Tom Dueck, Sander van Delden from Horticulture and Plant Physiology, Professor Leo Marcelis and ecologist Wieger Wamelink - all from Wageningen University & Research, who are working on various projects aimed at growing plants in other places, except on earth.

While astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) had their first ever space salad several weeks ago, these scientists are of the view that plenty of research is still needed to provide the astronauts a healthy diet while they are on their mission to Mars. In fact, such healthy diets are necessary for the astronauts on earth as well.

Keeping this in view, these researchers have selected different plant varieties that they want to grow in a spaceship. As of now, they are ready to take the next step - experimenting different cultivation techniques in a mobile test laboratory located close to the Neumayer III station on Antarctica, Wageningen UR quoted Tom Dueck as saying.

Meanwhile, scientists have successfully made a few improvements since their first experiment. Instead of small pots, they used trays and put in organic material like fresh cut grass to the Mars and moon soil simulant. "This solved the problem we had with watering in the first experiment and also added manure to the soils," the report quoted Wieger Wamelink as saying.

Particularly, there was significant improvement in the crop growth on the moon soil simulant. While most of the plants grown in the first moon soil experiment died, they flourished in the second experiment enabling the researchers to harvest the same species that were grown on the Mars soil simulant as well as earth potting compost control, Science Daily reported.

It is worth mentioning here that the soil experiment started in April 2015 and the final harvest took place in October 2015. Altogether, ten different crop species were sown in trays with either Mars or moon soil simulant in addition to earth potting compost as a control. All plants were grown in a glass house under constant temperature, humidity and light conditions and under earth atmosphere.

According to Wamelink, this was mainly owing to the fact that they expect that first crop growth on Mars and moon will happen in underground rooms with a view to protect the plants from the unfriendly environment including cosmic radiation. The researchers used Mars and moon soil simulants that were provided by NASA, which imitate Mars and moon soil very closely. It is interesting to note that the Mars soil simulant has its origin in a volcano on Hawaii, while the moon soil simulant is from a desert in Arizona.

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