Although building a colony on Mars can only be a project for the far future, scientists are already analyzing all the aspects of this hypothetical initiative. If we ever want to live on Mars, it’s mandatory for us to learn to harvest on our neighbouring planet. But the ultimate question arises: can the Martian soil allow us to plant and grow any seeds on it?
Food must be grown in a greenhouse on Mars, considering that bringing food from Earth would be too expensive. Researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) wanted to solve the great conundrum.
Artificial soil mixtures created to mimick the topsoil of Mars
For the artificial soil, the University of Georgia scientists used mixtures of soil, clay, salts, as well as other components available on the surface of the Red Planet.
Laura Fackrell, the lead author of the study and UGA geology doctoral candidate, explained more:
“Simulating the mineral makeup or salt content of these Martian mixtures can tell us a lot about the potential fertility of the soil. Things like nutrients, salinity, pH are part of what make a soil fertile and understanding where Mars’ soils are at in that spectrum is key to knowing if they are viable and if not, are there feasible solutions that can be used to make them viable,”
Oddly or not, the upper crust of Mars has many of the nutrients needed by plants, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
Scientists need even further analysis of the Martian soil, as the presence of some chemical components in the Red Planet does not automatically mean that the environment is suitable for crops.
Another official statement says:
“Soil on Mars is known to contain the majority of planet essential nutrients, but many questions of both the benefits (e.g. bioavailability of present nutrients) and limitations (e.g. extent of toxins) of Martian soil as a plant growth medium remain unanswered,”
A single trip to Mars requires a lot of preparation, as astronauts could be affected by many cosmic threats like space radiation, unusual temperatures, different gravity, and so on.
The new research was published in the journal Icarus: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0019103520304061