It Is Possible To Farm On The Moon! Researchers Grew Tiny Plants In Moon Soil

via Reuters

Scientists on Earth have grown plants on the soil of the Moon for the first time, a key step toward producing food and oxygen on the Moon during future space missions. The soil was returned to Earth by astronauts on Apollo missions 11, 12, and 17, respectively. For the experiment, they only had 12 grammes (a few teaspoons) of lunar soil. Plants may successfully sprout and thrive in lunar soil, according to experts at the University of Florida (UF) in the United States.

Researchers said on May 12 they planted seeds of a diminutive flowering weed Arabidopsis thaliana, which is related to mustard greens. They were planted in microscopic samples of regolith gathered on three distinct Apollo missions. Although the experiment looks promising, for now, the seeds germinated and grew, but they did not thrive.

The experiment was simple: put seedlings in lunar soil, supply water, nutrients, and light, and record the results. The researchers grew their small lunar garden in thimble-sized wells in plastic plates normally used to develop cells. Each well served as a pot.

Their research, which was published in the journal Communications Biology, also looked into how plants respond biologically to the soil on the Moon, known as lunar regolith, which is substantially different from soil on Earth.

"Lunar soils don't have a lot of the nutrients that are needed to support plant growth," stated Stephen Elardo of the University of Florida at a press conference Wednesday.

Plants grow on Moon's soil at a University of Florida lab (AP)

Elardo, together with Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferl, is a co-author of an article reporting the discovery that was published in the journal Communications Biology on Thursday.

While the plants developed in a stressed-out manner, they nevertheless found a way rather rapidly, with a little assistance from the team giving them light, water, and nutrients.

They started sprouting after two days according to Paul, who is also a professor of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida,"Everything sprouted. I can't tell you how astonished we were! Every plant -- whether in a lunar sample or in a control -- looked the same up until about day six." she added.

The plant grew slower and smaller in general, had more stunted roots, and were more likely to display stress-related characteristics such as smaller leaves and deep reddish-black colour that is not typical of healthy development. They also displayed stress-related gene activity, comparable to plant responses to salt, metal, and oxidation.

This study comes at a time when NASA's Artemis Program is planning to return humans to the Moon.

"Artemis will require a better understanding of how to grow plants in space," said Rob Ferl, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) professor and one of the study's authors.

Ferl believes that growing plants on the moon will aid astronauts and other visitors by providing not just food but also clean air and water.

"When we go to space somewhere, we always take our agriculture with us,"Ferl explained. "Showing plants will grow in lunar soil is actually a huge step in that direction."

The Mizos

The Mizos is a one-man team news blog, that brings you news and stories from Mizoram, Northeast India and the rest of the World.

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