Grow Plants On Moon Or Mars!

For this experiment, however, the researchers tested what a second generation crop cycle grown on the Moon or Mars would be like. They used organic material from a previous growing cycle and mixed that with the nutrient poor regoliths. According to the paper, the team used chopped up rye grass to simulate this material. Each Friday of the experiment, they added a nutrient-rich solution created to mimic the addition of human manure and urine that astro-colonists would likely add to their lunar farms.

The crops planted in the soils included garden cress, rocket (aka arugula), tomato, radish, rye, quinoa, spinach, chives, peas and leeks. Of those, the only vegetable that failed to grow well in the exo-soils was spinach. The radishes, cress and rye all grew to a point where seeds could be harvested. The team was also able to harvest tomatoes and peas from the lunar and Martian soils. The chives and leeks grew steadily, but slower than normal. While the quinoa produced flowers, it did not produce seeds. Still, the team reports that they suspect this is the first time any plants have been grown large enough to produce fruit in the soil simulants.

Robert Heinlein wrote about plants that could survive on the surface of planets like Mars, for example, the man-sized desert cabbage from his 1949 juvenile novel Red Planet:

The Sun was slipping behind a distant dune; the sunset wind whipped coldly at them. The far edges of the plant lifted and began to curl toward them... The inner leaves were beginning to curl faster than the outer leaves. Such a leaf, four feet wide at its widest and at least ten feet long, raised up in back of Jim and curved in until it touched his shoulder...

In his 1951 story Asteroid of Fear, Golden Age great Raymond Z. Gallun describes a greenhouse on an asteroid:

In their great plastic greenhouse, supported like a colossal bubble by the humid, artificially-warmed air inside it, long troughs were filled with pebbles and hydroponic solution. And therein tomatoes were planted, and lettuce, radishes, corn, onions, melonsójust about everything in the vegetable line... Under ideal conditions, the inside of the great bubble was soon a mass of growing things.

See also Martian-Grown Food Might Be Fine. Thanks to Winchell Chung at Project Rho for the tip.

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