Could vegetables grow on Mars soon?
The answer is yes
It has been revealed that the soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food – so says a study by plant ecologist Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands.
The discovery could prove highly practical if space travel really does become more familiar in the future. And if we are going to live anywhere in outer space in decades or centuries to come, Mars stands a good chance of being the place.
In a unique pilot experiment Wieger tested the growth of 14 plant varieties on artificial Mars soil over 50 days. NASA composed the soil based on the volcanic soil of Hawaii. To his surprise, the plants grew well; some even blossomed. "I had expected the germination process to work, but I thought the plants would die due to a lack of nutrients," Wieger explains. The soil analysis showed, however, that Mars soil contains more nutrients than expected. In addition to phosphorus and iron oxides, the scientist found nitrogen, an essential plant nutrient.
Professor Leo Marcelis of Wageningen University is advisor in the 'Mars One' project – and one of Wieger Wamelink's colleagues. He is looking into cultivation systems that should make growing vegetables on Mars possible, "As it is impossible to take everything from earth, we will need to produce food if we want to go into space. This requires knowledge on cultivation systems that function well in Mars conditions," he states.