Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Growing plants in the lunar soil? is possible!

Researchers from the University of Florida have in fact managed for the first time to sprout the seedlings of arabette in samples of lunar regolith brought back to Earth during the Apollo missions.

The arabette is a plant without any agronomic importance, but because of its simplicity it is often used in laboratory experiments. Also the plant has a very short life cycle, since it passes from being a bud to the adult stage in just six weeks.

The researchers used 12 grams of regolith from the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions. Each gram was placed inside a small well (similar to those used for cell cultivation) and was soaked with a nutrient solution. Inside each well, arabette seeds were planted. As a comparison, in other wells, arabette seeds have been cultivated in terrestrial soil.

The result was extraordinary, since practically all the seeds planted in the lunar soil have sprouted!

Nevertheless, differences between lunar and terrestrial plants have been observed. In general, the former have grown more slowly than the latter and have turned out to be smaller. By analyzing the data available to them, the researchers found that the seedlings were trying to adapt to the chemical composition and physical characteristics of the new soil.

This new and interesting research will have to be deepened, taking into account that the derived results may be fundamental for the next human explorations of our satellite.

Credit: "Plants grown in Apollo lunar regolith present stress-associated transcriptomes that inform prospects for lunar exploration", by Anna-Lisa Paul, Stephen M. Elardo and Robert Ferl 

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