London: Scientists have produced crops in Mars and lunar soil simulant developed by NASA, supporting the idea that it is possible to grow food on the Red Planet and the Moon to feed future settlers. The researchers at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands also suggests that it is also possible to obtain viable seed from crops grown on Mars and the Moon. They cultivated ten different crops, including garden cress, tomato, radish, rye, quinoa, spinach, chives, and peas.
“We were thrilled when we saw the first tomatoes ever grown on Mars soil simulant turning red. It meant that the next step towards a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem had been taken,” said Wieger Wamelink from Wageningen University & Research.
The researchers simulated the properties of Lunar and Martian regolith and “normal” soil — potting soil from Earth — as a control. Nine of the ten crops sown grew well and edible parts were harvested from them. Spinach was the exception, according to the study published in the journal Open Agriculture.
Total biomass production per tray was the highest for the Earth control and Mars soil simulant that differed significantly from Moon soil simulant, the researchers said. The seeds produced by three species — radish, rye and garden cress — were tested successfully for germination.
The researchers said that if humans are going to establish a base on the Moon or on Mars they will have to grow their own crops. An option is to use Lunar and Martian regolith. These regoliths are not available for plant growth experiments, therefore NASA has developed regolith simulants, they said.