Researchers have Grown Plants in Gathered Moon Soil

A new breakthrough in space survival is upon humankind. One that could possibly affect the way we travel through space for years to come. 

Horticulture of the Future

For the first time in human history, scientists have successfully sprouted plants using soil from the Moon. As described in a research paper published in the journal Communications Biology, scientists from the University of Florida displayed that it is possible to grow plants in lunar soil. 

The Moon’s soil is also known as lunar regolith. Comparatively the Lunar regolith and Earth’s soil are vastly different. In addition to growing the plants, the study also focused on how the plants responded biologically to the lunar regolith. The hope is that the research leads toward growing crops and plants for oxygen on the Moon. 

Earthly Experiments

The researchers experimented by first planting seeds in the lunar soil. They added water, nutrients, and light and then recorded the results. The only problem was, that they only had 12 grams of lunar soil to work with. Twelve grams would be equivalent to just a couple of teaspoons but the scientists remained grateful. The lunar soil was loaned to them by NASA.

The researchers had to apply to get the lunar regolith three times. The soil was collected during the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions that went to the Moon. The experiment consisted of utilizing the limited soil as much as they could. They used “thimble-sized” wells and laid those onto plastic plates that are usually used for cell research. Each well worked as a pot and was filled with a gram of lunar soil. The scientists then moistened the soil with a nutritional solution. 

The seeds that were planted are from the Arabidopsis plant. The reason scientists use this plant is that its genetic code has been completely mapped. Having the plant’s genetic code mapped allows this insight to go down to the level of gene expression. This allows the scientists to see how the soil affects the plants on the genetic level, adding to the care of each future plant. 

For sake of comparison, the researchers also planted Arabidopsis into other soils. These soils were JSC-1A, which is a terrestrial substance that mimics real lunar soil, simulated Martian soils, and extreme environment terrestrial soils. These plants were considered the control group. 

Surprising Findings

Nearly all of the wells filled with lunar soil sprouted, much to the surprise of the scientists. However, the plants all grew differently with ones in lunar soil differing from the ones in the control group. Some of the plants in the lunar soil took longer to grow, grew smaller, or had more variety in size than those in the control group. This all meant that the plants were compromising and working extra to grow in the Moon’s soil. 

The plants saw the lunar regolith as stressful as the gene expressions told scientists. The plants began to release salt and metals, according to the researchers. These are techniques plants use to deal with stressful environments. The plants were working hard to show the researchers life. They hope to use this data as a way to help future lunar crops flourish smoothly. Of course, more studies are to be done.