First plant for growing on Mars selected

During the conquest of Mars, future colonists will have to take care of their survival. Therefore, the cultivation of crops will be the main part of solving nutrition problems. The strict conditions of survival on the Red Planet were even shown in the movie “The Martian” starring Matt Damon. Growing potatoes seems impossible and fantastic, but NASA experiments confirm that the soil of the Red Planet is theoretically suitable for growing grain crops.

Radish plants grown in similar to Martian soil, with alfalfa as fertilizer.

But not everything is so simple. The sand and dust of Mars are not only devoid of organic substances and beneficial microbes, they are also full of salts and minerals that are harmful to plants. A new study suggests a solution to the problem of nutrition by planting alfalfa. Researchers have determined that this forage crop is able to survive in solid volcanic soil.

Scientists have discovered that alfalfa is able to grow in volcanic soil similar to that covering Mars, without any additional fertilizers. Of course, it is not edible, but it can be used as fertilizer for growing food products such as turnips, radishes and lettuce – these plants do not require special care, grow quickly and do not need a lot of water.

Farming on Mars: Processing basalt soil regolith and saltwater simulators supports plant growth. Photo: Plos

“The low nutrient content of the Martian soil and the high salinity of the water make it unsuitable for direct use for growing food crops on Mars. Therefore, it is important to develop strategies to increase the nutrient content in the Martian soil and desalination of salt water for long-term missions,” the researchers write in their article.

Although turnips, radishes and lettuce do not need a lot of water, they still need to be watered. They need fresh water. There are deposits of frozen ice on Mars, which, according to research, is salty. Therefore, scientists suggest treating Martian salt water with bacteria, and then filtering it through volcanic rock. As a result, it is possible to obtain fresh water, which is necessary for plant growth.

According to Plos

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