A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants

A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants

9 Pages · 2014 · 2.27 MB · English

1 Alterra, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands, 2 Unifarm, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands, 3 Biometris, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, . shop (Welkoop, Wageningen), and the wild plant seeds at Cruydt cleaning, dried in a stove for 24 hours at 70uC; After cooling down.

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Can Plants Grow on Mars and the Moon: A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants G W Wieger Wamelink 1*, Joep Y Frissel 1, Wilfred H J Krijnen 2, M Rinie Verwoert 2, Paul W Goedhart 3 1Alterra, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands,2Unifarm, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands,3Biometris, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands 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 largescale 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 Citation:Wamelink GWW, Frissel JY, Krijnen WHJ, Verwoert MR, Goedhart PW (2014) Can Plants Grow on Mars and the Moon: A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants PLoS ONE 9(8): e103138 doi:101371/journalpone0103138 Editor:Alberto de la Fuente, LeibnizInstitute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Germany ReceivedJanuary 8, 2014;AcceptedJune 25, 2014;PublishedAugust 27, 2014 Copyright:2014 Wamelink et al This is an openaccess article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited Funding:This research was supported by the Dutch Ministery of Economic Affairs The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript Competing Interests:The authors have declared that no competing interests exist * Email: [email protected] Introduction Lunar and Mars explorations have provided information about the mineral composition of the soils of these solar objects In addition to rocks they contain large amounts of sandlike soils or regoliths All essential minerals for the growth of plants appear to be present in sufficient quantities in both soils probably with the exception of reactive nitrogen Nitrogen in reactive form (NO 3, NH 4) is one of the essential minerals necessary for almost all plant growth [1] The major source of reactive nitrogen on Earth is the mineralisation of organic matter [1] However organic matter is absent on both Mars and moon although they do contain carbon [2–6] Nitrogen in reactive form (NO 3,NH 4) is one of the essential minerals necessary for almost all plant growth [1] Reactive nitrogen is part of the material in our solar system and is part of solar wind, a source of reactive nitrogen on the moon and Mars [3,7] Reactive nitrogen may also arise as an effect of lightning or volcanic activity [8,9] and both processes may occur on Mars This indicates that in principle reactive nitrogen could be present [7,10] However, the Mars Pathfinder was not able to detect reactive nitrogen [11] Thus the actual presence of major quantities of reactive nitrogen remains uncertain The major source of reactive nitrogen on Earth is the mineralisation of organic matter [1], which is absent on both Mars and moon The absence of sufficient reactive nitrogen may be solved by using nitrogen fixing species In symbioses with bacteria [12,13] these nitrogen fixers are able to bind nitrogen from the air and transform it into nitrates, a process which requires nitrogen in the atmosphere However, there is no

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