Is it just around the corner to grow plants on the lunar soil?

  Recently, a new study published in “Communication Biology” said that Arabidopsis thaliana seeds were successfully germinated and grown for the first time under the cultivation of lunar soil. This shows that growing vegetables on the moon is just around the corner.
  In essence, the composition of lunar soil is similar to that of the earth’s soil, which also strengthens Professor Rob Ferl’s belief in continuing the “moon soil breeding” experiment. He is from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) at the University of Florida and is an author of the study.
  The lunar soil used for the experiments was collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 lunar missions. In the past 11 years, he and his colleagues applied to NASA three times, and finally obtained the right to use 12 grams of lunar soil for experiments. This makes this achievement even more valuable.
  To create a miniature “moon garden”, he used plastic plates commonly used to grow cells as “flower pots”. Each pot was filled with 1 gram of lunar soil and moistened with nutrient solution before adding some Arabidopsis seeds.
  For ease of comparison, they also cultivated Arabidopsis seeds with JSC-1A (an earth material that simulates lunar soil), simulated Martian soil, and polar earth soil.
  The results were surprising: Arabidopsis germinated and grew in all soils, including lunar soils; moreover, the seeds did not germinate at different rates in lunar and terrestrial soils. “This shows that the lunar soil did not block the hormones and signals involved in plant germination,” the researchers said.
  Over time, though, gaps began to emerge between the lunar plants and the control group—they were more sluggish and “smaller” than the latter; some seedlings had poor root condition, hyperpigmentation, Apparently stunted.
  The researchers believe that the symptoms of Arabidopsis in lunar soil are physical manifestations of their efforts to cope with environmental stress.
  This was further confirmed in subsequent genetic analyses. After growing Arabidopsis for about 20 days, the researchers cut and ground it to compare the differences in gene expression levels between plants in different soils.
  The results showed that the lunar soil plants had more than 1,000 genes whose expression levels were different from those of other soil-grown plants, most of which were related to stress.
  In addition, the lunar soil collected by different tasks has different effects of “growing vegetables”. Among them, the plants with the most severe stress response (that is, the stress response of plants to unfavorable environmental conditions) were those grown with the Apollo 11 sample lunar soil.
  Sample 11 was taken from the Sea of ​​Tranquility region of the moon. Compared with samples 12 and 17 taken from other regions, they have been exposed to cosmic radiation, solar wind for billions of years longer, and have suffered more meteorite impacts, so they are also considered “more mature”. lunar soil”.
  Under the above action, the composition of mature lunar soil changes, enriching the tiny particles of metallic iron. Scientists speculate that these nano-phase metallic iron is the “culprit” that hinders the growth of Arabidopsis thaliana. Because of this, “plants grown in less mature lunar soil grow better.”
  This research undoubtedly lays the groundwork for the implementation of future lunar agriculture programs. “If we need to carry out longer space missions, it is very likely that we will build a supply base on the moon. If there is a ‘fertile soil’ on the moon that can be grown, we will not worry about food supplies.” Professor Rob Ferl said.

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