August 15, 2022

Astronauts could someday dine on lettuce grown on asteroid soil.

Romaine lettuce, chili and pink radish grew in a combination of peat moss and synthetic asteroid soil, researchers report in July. Journal of Planetary Science.

Scientists have beforehand grown crops in lunar mud (Sat: 05/23/22). However the brand new examine is targeted on “carbonaceous chondrite meteorites identified to be wealthy in risky sources – particularly water,” says astroecologist Sherry Fiber-Beyer of the College of North Dakota at Grand Forks. These meteorites and their guardian asteroids are additionally wealthy in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, key vitamins for agriculture. Grinding some of these asteroids, maybe as a part of an in-space mining effort, may probably present a prepared provide of agricultural materials in area.

Fieber-Bayer purchased a fabric that mimics the composition of area rocks and donated it to her graduate scholar Stephen Russell. “I mentioned, ‘Okay, plant some crops for me.’

Russell, now an astrobiologist on the College of Wisconsin-Madison, selected radishes, lettuce, and chili peppers, all grown aboard the Worldwide House Station. He, Fieber-Bayer, and their colleague Kathryn Yurkonis, additionally on the College of North Dakota, in contrast how crops grew solely in synthetic asteroid soil, solely in peat moss, and numerous mixtures of the 2.

Peat moss loosens the soil and improves water retention. In all mixtures with sphagnum crops grew. Nevertheless, the synthetic asteroid soil itself compacted and could not maintain water, so crops could not develop.

Subsequent, Fiber-Bayer will attempt to develop furry vetch seeds on this synthetic asteroid mud, let the crops rot, after which combine the useless crops into the soil. This, she says, can be sure that the soil would not compact. As well as, the seeds weigh a lot lower than peat moss, so they’re simpler to hold into area to assist with any future farming efforts.

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