You might have heard about the Mars One space mission with the goal to create a human settlement on Mars. The first crews will probably depart in ten years, and there are numerous issues that are still to be resolved to make this mission happen.
One of these is to provide a constant source of food to feed the first settlers.
Researchers at Wageningen University & Research Centre in the Netherlands managed to grow and harvest ten different crop species.
They grew these crops in the soil that mimics the environment on Mars. For imitating the conditions of the Red Planet, researchers used the soil from a volcano in Hawaii. This soil was then mixed with fresh cut grass.
Ten different crop species (tomato, rye, radish, pea, leek, spinach, garden rocket, cress, quinoa, and chives) were sown. Shallow trays were used, and the plants were cultivated in a glass house under constant temperature, humidity, and light conditions, and under an Earth-like atmosphere.
Lead researcher of the study, Wieger Wamelink, explained that first crop growth on Mars will take place in underground rooms to protect the plants from the hostile environment including cosmic radiation.
Researchers found that the Mars soil stimulates the growth of fewer crops than Earth’s soil, but the difference was very small.
Wamelink said, “That was a real surprise to us. It shows that the Mars soil simulant has great potential when properly prepared and watered.”