“火星等效土壤”成功种出10种农作物

为探究我们能多大程度地在太空中种出农作物,科学家进行了一项实验,并成功种出了10种农作物(包括番茄、豌豆、黑麦),他们所使用的是模拟火星条件的土壤。虽然火星等效土壤种出来的农作物比普通地球土壤稍微少一些,但差异并不大——仅有一个盘子产量减少。这意味着,在适当条件下(即准备妥当和浇水),早期移民或许能够在火星上种植农作物,可持续地养育自己。我们离火星殖民梦又近了一点点。
十种农作物分别是:番茄、黑麦、萝卜、豌豆、韭菜、菠菜、芝麻菜、水芹、藜谷、香葱。同时,研究人员也在月球模拟土壤中种植了这十种农作物,但成功率仅为火星的一半,其中菠菜在月球环境中特别难以存活。
那么,人们如何在地球寻找和外星土壤化学物质相似的土壤呢?这需要前往地球的极端地方。“火星”土壤来自于夏威夷的一座火山,而“月球”土壤则采集于亚利桑那的一个沙漠。随后,这些土壤和新鲜割草混合在一起,被置于浅盘中,这会使浇水容易一些。另外,一个控制盘装着普通的地球盆栽用土。
不过,先别急着打包。首先,结果尚未发表,我们不能听信瓦赫宁根大学的一面之词。其次,该研究只模拟了火星和月球的土壤,并没有模拟其余的环境条件,比如严酷的宇宙辐射、剧烈的冷热交替。农作物种植在地球大气层下的玻璃房内,拥有稳定的湿度、光线、温度。但研究人员解释道,这是由于他们预计第一批火星和月球农作物会种在地下房间,以保护植物免受不利环境的影响。这很有道理,但我们仍旧无法准确预测身处另一星球将如何影响该过程。
最后,他们尚未进行最关键的实验阶段,即判断这些植物的食用安全性。如果它们有毒,那我们也就没有必要种它们了。那些土壤含有重金属,如铅、砷、汞和大量铁。如果植物能够利用这些重金属,那么它们也许将被吸收、并进入水果里,使水果有毒。
不过,尽管研究存在局限性,但这一消息仍旧十分激动人心。在离家数十亿公里之时,没有什么比新鲜蔬菜更宽慰人心的了。

http://www.sciencealert.com/tomatoes-peas-and-8-other-crops-have-been-grown-in-mars-equivalent-soil

Tomatoes, peas, and 8 other crops have been grown in Mars-equivalent soil

In an experiment testing how well we can grow crops in space, scientists have managed to harvest 10 crops, including tomatoes, peas, and rye, from soil that mimics the conditions on Mars.

Although the Mars-equivalent soil produced slightly fewer crops than regular Earth soil, the difference wasn't huge, suggesting that, in the right conditions, early settlers might be able to sustainably feed themselves with crops grown on the Red Planet. The dream of a Martian colony just got a little bit closer.

"The production of biomass on the Mars soil simulant was lower than on Earth control, but it was a minor difference and caused by one of the trays that showed less growth," said lead researcher Wieger Wamelink from Wageningen University & Research centre in the Netherlands. "That was a real surprise to us. It shows that the Mars soil simulant has great potential when properly prepared and watered."

The researchers also grew the same 10 crops - tomato, rye, radish, pea, leek, spinach, garden rocket, cress, quinoa, and chives - in soil that mimicked Moon soil, and showed that these crops were about half as successful as Mars crops, with spinach in particular struggling in the lunar environment.

So how do you find soil that's chemically similar to kind you'd find outside of Earth? You head to some of the most extreme places on our planet. The 'Mars' soil came from a volcano on Hawaii, while 'Moon' soil was collected in a desert in Arizona. These were then mixed with fresh cut grass in shallow trays, which made it easier to water the crops. A control tray contained regular Earth potting compost.

Before you get too excited and start packing your gardening gear for Mars, there are a few things to flag here - first of all, the results haven't been published, so we're currently taking Wageningen University's word for it (for the record, this is their second experiment on space crops, so it's not an unreliable word to take, but we're always wary until we see peer-reviewed findings).

The study also only mimicked soil on Mars and the Moon, and not the rest of their conditions - such as the harsh space radiation, or the bitter heat and cold.

The crops were grown in a glass house under Earth's atmosphere, with stable humidity, light, and temperature - but Wamelik explains that this is because "we expect that first crop growth on Mars and Moon will take place in underground rooms to protect the plants from the hostile environment". That's fair enough, but we still can't predict exactly how being on another planet will affect the process.

Finally, the most crucial phase of the experiment - determining whether these plants are safe to eat - hasn't commenced as yet. And there's no point growing crops if they're going to poison us.

"The soils contain heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury and also a lot of iron," said Wamelink. "If the components become available for the plants, they may be taken up and find their way into the fruits, making them poisonous."

The team is now crowdfunding further research on this subject, with experiments scheduled to start in April this year.

But despite the limitations, it's still pretty exciting to know that soil on the Red Planet is capable of growing our food crops - because there's nothing more comforting when you're billions of kilometres from home than fresh vegetables.

Last year, astronauts also managed to grow and eat the first lettuce on board the International Space Station - which, tbh, looked pretty tasty - so we're getting closer to being able to pull a Mark Watney and farm extraterrestrial landthan ever before. Bring it on.


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