An impressive feat was achieved by scientists from the University of Florida, since they managed to grow plants in the soil of the Moona world first that will reveal how living organisms react on the surface of our natural satellite.
In a new article published in the journal Communications Biology, researchers from the University of Florida showed that plants can successfully sprout and grow on lunar soil. Their study also investigated how plants respond biologically to soil on the Moon, also known as lunar regolith, which is radically different from soil found on Earth.
This research comes as the Artemis Program plans to return humans to the Moon.
Anna-Lisa Paul, one of the study authors and a research professor of horticultural sciences at UF/IFAS, commented on this feat:
“The plants helped establish that the soil samples brought back from the moon did not harbor pathogens or other unknown components that would harm life on Earth, but those plants were only dusted with lunar regolith and never grown on it,” Paul said.
Rob Ferl, one of the study’s authors and distinguished professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), also commented on this scientific triumph.
“For future longer space missions, we can use the Moon as a hub or launch pad. It makes sense that we want to use the soil that’s already there to grow plants,” Ferl said. “So what happens when you grow plants on lunar soil, something that is totally outside of a plant’s evolutionary experience? What would plants do in a lunar greenhouse? Could we have lunar farmers? », she added.
To perform the experiments, the scientists had 12 grams of lunar soil brought back by the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions. What they did was plant seeds in the lunar soil, add water, nutrients, and light, and record the results.
To grow their little lunar garden, the researchers used thimble-sized wells in plastic dishes that are normally used to grow cells. Each worked well as a pot. Once they filled each “pot” with about a gram of lunar soil, the scientists moistened the soil with a nutrient solution and added some seeds from the Arabidopsis plant.
Before the experiment, the researchers weren’t sure whether seeds planted in lunar soils would sprout. But almost everyone did.
“We were amazed. We didn’t predict that,” Paul said. “That told us that the lunar soils did not disrupt the hormones and signals involved in plant germination.”