Plants grown in moon’s soil highlight challenges of potential lunar crops

Scientists have made an exciting discovery with some seeds and dirt. Plants can grow in the moon’s soil, but it takes a lot of work.

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For the first time ever, plants have grown in soil that is not from Earth, but rather another celestial body, CNN reported.

The study is a baby step toward growing plants on the lunar surface that could supply oxygen and food on the moon.

However, it isn’t as easy as sprinkling seeds in some dirt.

The project started 15 years ago when the researchers first proposed the idea, but the request for lunar material was just granted 18 months ago.

NASA sent the team 2.7 teaspoons of dirt from the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions.

They then distributed the soil, called lunar regolith, into thimble-sized wells. They then added nutrients, water and a few Arabidopsis thaliana seeds, also known as thale cress, CNN reported.

The genetic code of the seeds was already mapped, so they would be able to track how the soil changes the plants. Thale cress also has been to space on the shuttle and space station.

They also put some seeds in synthetic dirt that simulates lunar soil and other soil-like substances.

Seeds planted in the actual lunar soil grew, and that’s what surprised scientists.

“We did not predict that,” Anna-Lisa Paul said, according to CNN. “That told us that the lunar soils didn’t interrupt the hormones and signals involved in plant germination.”

While they did grow, they struggled to do so as they adjusted to the soil.

“Every plant, whether in a lunar sample or in a control, looked the same up until about day six,” Paul said, according to BBC News.

The seedlings were smaller and grew slower than in normal dirt. They also had smaller roots and the leaves showed signs of stress.

Next, they have to find out how to find an efficient way to grow plants in the lunar soil, how plants can avoid stressors and if lunar soil affects the nutritional value of food grown on the moon, CNN reported.

NASA plans on sending humans to the moon for the first time since 1972, BBC News reported. The Artemis program’s mission to the moon is slated to happen in 2025.

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