Grass grown on lunar soil


Samples of lunar soil brought to Earth as part of the Apollo program have been studied in a variety of ways – but what has never been done with it is that they have not tried to grow plants on it. It was only known that it does not harm plants, that is, there is nothing dangerous in it for them. But will they be able to sprout on it, cling to it with roots, grow at least a little?

Employees University of Florida this is exactly the experiment they set up: they took 12 grams of lunar regolith, that is, lunar soil, and distributed it into small holes the size of a thimble. The researchers might have taken more soil, but NASA gave them as much as they gave out (it can be added that they tried to get permission for the experiment three times over the course of eleven years). There are certain microelements in the lunar soil, but still it is not terrestrial soil, and therefore top dressing was added to the soil samples. The experimental plant was Talya’s clover, or Arabidopsis, one of the main model organisms in modern biology.

In addition to real lunar regolith, Arabidopsis seeds were planted in real terrestrial soil in order to have something to compare with. In an article in Communications Biology it is said that the seeds sprouted everywhere – in other words, there is nothing in the alien lands that would definitely prevent the seeds from developing. Nevertheless, the plants grew differently: some of those that grew on the lunar regolith turned out to be smaller and developed more slowly compared to plants on terrestrial soil, and in general, among the “lunar” Arabidopsis, the spread in size was relatively large.

When the researchers analyzed the activity of plant genes, it turned out that on the lunar regolith they have stronger genes that help to cope with an excess of salts, metals and aggressive oxidizing agents. That is, although in some basic structural respect, lunar regolith is suitable for plants, it still stresses them. At the same time, the reaction to the soil varied depending on where it was taken from. Arabidopsis stressed the most on the regolith, which was most affected by the stellar wind.

In general, we can say that the lunar soil is still good for something, on the other hand, if you think about agriculture on the Moon, then the soil here will have to be somehow optimized. However, before making plans for lunar plantations, you need to try to bring at least the same Arabidopsis to flowering and fruiting on the lunar regolith, and at the same time find out how the plants themselves affect it.


Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by www.nkj.ru.

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