Jump to content

First use of 'soil' from the Moon to grow plants.


studiot
 Share

Recommended Posts

 

Quote

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-61434295

Scientists have grown plants in lunar soil for the first time, an important step towards making long-term stays on the moon possible.

Researchers used small samples of dust collected during the 1969-1972 Apollo missions to grow a type of cress.

Much to their surprise, the seeds sprouted after two days.

"I can't tell you how astonished we were," said Anna-Lisa Paul, a University of Florida professor who co-authored a paper on the findings.

"Every plant - whether in a lunar sample or in a control - looked the same up until about day six."

After that, differences emerged. The plants grown in moon soil started to show stress, developed more slowly and ended up stunted.

But those involved say it is a breakthrough - and one that has earthly implications.

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, up until about day six the plants used nutrients and organic matter stored in the seeds, and used the soil just to hold to something. After that, the plants needed more from the substrate and then "discovered" that something is missing. I'd guess that botanists know what is missing. 

I read this news and couldn't understand what was so astonishing, what did they expect, what new knowledge have they obtained...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Genady said:

After that, the plants needed more from the substrate and then "discovered" that something is missing. I'd guess that botanists know what is missing. 

https://www.google.com/search?q=moon+soil+chemical+composition

Nitrogen is not on the list of elements..

"The bulk chemical composition of lunar dust varies across the lunar surface, but is about 50% SiO2, 15% Al2O3, 10% CaO, 10% MgO, 5% TiO2 and 5-15% iron (Table 1), with lesser amounts of sodium, potassium, chromium, zirconium."

 

On Earth, nitrogen compounds found in soil are produced during lightning strikes and by nitrogen-fixing microorganisms.

Edited by Sensei
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As @Sensei said, regolith is not a true soil.

Google: "why is regolith not a true soil"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regolith

Even on Earth, where molecular nitrogen is very abundant in the atmosphere, we need nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Only physical processes and few and very special organisms can break the N2 triple bond. I suppose @Genady's picture is correct that, once the nutrients from the seeds run out, the plant cells simply didn't find the nitrogen to synthesize their proteins and nucleic acids. I would assume lunar regolith is poor in phosphorus too, but I'm not sure.

Interesting news.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Genady said:

I read this news and couldn't understand what was so astonishing, what did they expect, what new knowledge have they obtained...

It struck me the same way. Back in 4th grade we sprouted seeds on wet paper towels. They also started to look bad after a while.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I did not understand if they added water to the soil or not?

(btw, I would be more interested about an experiment to check if lithoautotrops can live there - but I guess it could take a long time to check it)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

I did not understand if they added water to the soil or not?

(btw, I would be more interested about an experiment to check if lithoautotrops can live there - but I guess it could take a long time to check it)

Brilliant point. I hadn't thought about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Danijel Gorupec said:

I did not understand if they added water to the soil or not?

(btw, I would be more interested about an experiment to check if lithoautotrops can live there - but I guess it could take a long time to check it)

AFAIK, seeds will not germinate without water (along with the right temperature and sometimes other factors).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Plants (with seeds, which they tried) are multicellular organisms. They (i.e. scientists working on this project) should be successful with unicellular organisms first (e.g. air nitrogen-fixing ones?), and then try with multicellular ones because they are more challenging. Then check the cooperation between the nitrogen-fixing unicellular microorganisms and the multicellular ones, which will use nitrogen compounds created for them.

 

Edited by Sensei
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A breakdown of the available nutrients seems appropriate; as others point out getting seeds to sprout is not indicative of an adequate growing medium. About the best it does is indicate an absence of toxicity to plants, or was the "soil" washed or otherwise modified? Mars "soil" would definitely need to have the perchlorates washed out as a preparatory step. NPK are just the big ones where plant nutrients are concerned and for a great many plants the presence of soil biota is critical, including for making usable nutrients from raw rock and mineral material.

But I am not convinced this kind of experiment has much value and suspect it is more about keeping the hype about desirability and inevitability of human occupation alive; being able to grow plants in Moon or Mars "soil", when suitable soil, with it's mineral abundances and mineral absences is just one of a great many requirements for viable agriculture will give a misleading impression - almost inconsequential compared to some of the difficulties. On Earth the kinds of construction costs of suitable habitat like the moon needs would send farmers broke before they ever planted anything. And doing it here would be much easier and less costly.

Economics is not inconsequential - if providing basic needs takes more economic resources than what the available labour can produce the enterprise will fail; some very big payoff is needed to justify Earth's subsidies.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

A breakdown of the available nutrients seems appropriate; as others point out getting seeds to sprout is not indicative of an adequate growing medium. About the best it does is indicate an absence of toxicity to plants, or was the "soil" washed or otherwise modified? Mars "soil" would definitely need to have the perchlorates washed out as a preparatory step. NPK are just the big ones where plant nutrients are concerned and for a great many plants the presence of soil biota is critical, including for making usable nutrients from raw rock and mineral material.

But I am not convinced this kind of experiment has much value and suspect it is more about keeping the hype about desirability and inevitability of human occupation alive; being able to grow plants in Moon or Mars "soil", when suitable soil, with it's mineral abundances and mineral absences is just one of a great many requirements for viable agriculture will give a misleading impression - almost inconsequential compared to some of the difficulties. On Earth the kinds of construction costs of suitable habitat like the moon needs would send farmers broke before they ever planted anything. And doing it here would be much easier and less costly.

Economics is not inconsequential - if providing basic needs takes more economic resources than what the available labour can produce the enterprise will fail; some very big payoff is needed to justify Earth's subsidies.

Yeah I'm thinking it'll be mainly hydroponics anyways. Rockwool should be possible to manufacture from local Basalt. Will definitely depend on the relative costs of Imports vs Local production.

Edited by Endy0816
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5/13/2022 at 1:21 PM, Genady said:

I read this news and couldn't understand what was so astonishing, what did they expect, what new knowledge have they obtained...

It was unknown whether the plants would germinate at all - the fact they did tells us that regolith did not interfere with the hormones necessary for this process. The plant they chose was the first one to have its genome sequenced, allowing them to look into the transcriptome to identify epigenetic changes due to the regolith, particularly what stress responses were triggered.

They also compared regolith from 3 different lunar sites, allowing them to identify differences in morphology, transcriptomes etc between sites.

Full paper here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-022-03334-8

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Prometheus said:

It was unknown whether the plants would germinate at all - the fact they did tells us that regolith did not interfere with the hormones necessary for this process. The plant they chose was the first one to have its genome sequenced, allowing them to look into the transcriptome to identify epigenetic changes due to the regolith, particularly what stress responses were triggered.

They also compared regolith from 3 different lunar sites, allowing them to identify differences in morphology, transcriptomes etc between sites.

Full paper here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-022-03334-8

Thanks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.