Researchers from Wageningen University & Research centre in the Netherlands have created Mars-equivalent soil in the lab and successfully managed to grow crops in it. This is a huge step towards the potential future colonisation of the red planet.
The team, led by Wieger Wamelink (you could call him a Martian Farmer now), compared two different formulations of soil. One was obtained from a Hawaiian Volcano, to mimic the conditions of Mars. The other was more like moon soil, which was pulled from a desert in Arizona. Bear in mind this experiment didn't replicate the atmospheric conditions like radiation or low humidity, as it would be impossible to mimic that.
They didn't just focus on the formulation, but on the quantity of products too. Every pound sent into orbit will cost a significant amount to shoot up into orbit, so they need to make it as feasible as possible.
According to the study (which is still awaiting publication), the team successfully planted and grew tomatoes, rye, radish, pea, leek, spinach, garden rocket, cress, quinoa, and chives in each type of soil. Overall, the yield was slightly lower than Earth soil, and with the higher levels of heavy metals in Martian soil, the plants may not be edible. But the team hopes to do more testing next month, to see if they can solve this particularly big problem.
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