Can Plants Grow on Mars and the Moon: A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants

G.W.W. Wamelink, J.Y. Frissel, W.H.J. Krijnen, M.R. Verwoert, P.W. Goedhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

When humans will settle on the moon or Mars they will have to eat there. Food may be flown in. An alternative could be to cultivate plants at the site itself, preferably in native soils. We report on the first large-scale controlled experiment to investigate the possibility of growing plants in Mars and moon soil simulants. The results show that plants are able to germinate and grow on both Martian and moon soil simulant for a period of 50 days without any addition of nutrients. Growth and flowering on Mars regolith simulant was much better than on moon regolith simulant and even slightly better than on our control nutrient poor river soil. Reflexed stonecrop (a wild plant); the crops tomato, wheat, and cress; and the green manure species field mustard performed particularly well. The latter three flowered, and cress and field mustard also produced seeds. Our results show that in principle it is possible to grow crops and other plant species in Martian and Lunar soil simulants. However, many questions remain about the simulants' water carrying capacity and other physical characteristics and also whether the simulants are representative of the real soils.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere103138
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Mars
Moon
Soil
Soils
Growth
Brassicaceae
soil
Mustard Plant
Experiments
Food
Nutrients
Crops
Manure
Manures
Conservation of Natural Resources
green manures
nutrients
wild plants
Lycopersicon esculentum
crops

Cite this

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title = "Can Plants Grow on Mars and the Moon: A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants",
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Can Plants Grow on Mars and the Moon: A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants. / Wamelink, G.W.W.; Frissel, J.Y.; Krijnen, W.H.J.; Verwoert, M.R.; Goedhart, P.W.

In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 9, No. 8, e103138, 2014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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AU - Goedhart, P.W.

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AB - When humans will settle on the moon or Mars they will have to eat there. Food may be flown in. An alternative could be to cultivate plants at the site itself, preferably in native soils. We report on the first large-scale controlled experiment to investigate the possibility of growing plants in Mars and moon soil simulants. The results show that plants are able to germinate and grow on both Martian and moon soil simulant for a period of 50 days without any addition of nutrients. Growth and flowering on Mars regolith simulant was much better than on moon regolith simulant and even slightly better than on our control nutrient poor river soil. Reflexed stonecrop (a wild plant); the crops tomato, wheat, and cress; and the green manure species field mustard performed particularly well. The latter three flowered, and cress and field mustard also produced seeds. Our results show that in principle it is possible to grow crops and other plant species in Martian and Lunar soil simulants. However, many questions remain about the simulants' water carrying capacity and other physical characteristics and also whether the simulants are representative of the real soils.

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