Farming on Mars: Mars soil simulant witnesses earthworm reproduction
Researchers in the Netherlands have found that earthworms can reproduce in Mars soil simulant obtained from NASA.
“To feed future humans on Mars a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem is a necessity”
Researchers have so far been able to grow a dozen crops on Mars-like soil. “However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant”.
- On Mars, soil samples will be fertilised using human waste.
- Then – after germination of the rocket – they put in the worms.
- Earthworms eat the dead organic matter which ends up in the soil. This digging can change soil structure, which enhances the watering of plants.
- The latter proved to be very important in earlier experiments where water would not easily penetrate the soil.
- The Food for Mars and Moon project works on setting up a sustainable agricultural system that can help feed humans who will live on Mars or the moon in the future. It’s based on the presence of soils and water – in the form of ice – on both Mars and the moon. For the Earth-based research we are using soil simulants delivered by NASA.
The result could be crucial as scientists aim to determine whether people can keep themselves alive on the Red Planet by growing their own crops on Mars soil.
The soil simulant was created using data collected by Mars rovers and orbiters and is said to be as close to the real thing as possible, given the information that’s now available.