When humans set foot on the Red Planet, they could grow food locally…
Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have found crops of four vegetables and cereals grown on soil similar to that on Mars safe to eat. Since 2013, the team has been experimenting with raising 10 crops on Mars-like soil developed by NASA that resembles that of the red planet. Soil on Mars contains several heavy metals that are toxic to humans such as lead, cadmium and arsenic, and scientists had to find out whether the crops would absorb these heavy metals or would be safe for consumption. The results are encouraging as four of the crops (radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes) have already been tested and do not contain "dangerous levels" of heavy metals, according to the researchers. "These remarkable results are very promising," said the head of research and senior ecologist Wieger Wamelink. “We can actually eat the radishes, peas, rye, and tomatoes and I am very curious what they will taste like."
Further tests are now needed on the remaining six crops, including potatoes and a crowd-funding campaign is supporting this research. With a donation of 100 euros, a single test on heavy metals on the vegetables of the experiment could be run and with 500 euros, researchers will organize a Martian dinner for the donor with the edible vegetables and fruits that will come up from the experiments.
There are projects pursued by NASA, US billionaire Elon Musk and the Dutch company Mars One that aim to set up human colonies on Mars within the next 10 to 15 years. "Mars One is very proud to support this important research," said Bas Lansdorp, CEO and co-founder of Mars One. "Growing food locally is especially important to our mission of permanent settlement, as we have to ensure sustainable food production on Mars."
Wieger Wamelink inspects the progress of the experiments. Photo credit: Wagningen University
Peas being grown in Mars-like soil simulants. Photo credit: Wagningen University