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Scientists grow plants on lunar soil for the first time

BingMag.com <b>Scientists</b> <b>grow</b> <b>plants</b> on <b>lunar</b> <b>soil</b> for the <b>first</b> time

As a need to travel to other worlds, Scientists have succeeded in growing plants for the first time in the moon's soil.

Plant growth It has many advantages in space. Because plants recycle water, they can help keep the atmosphere healthy and also diversify the diet. While they can be grown hydroponically, this process requires a large amount of water that may not be available. Therefore, for missions that land on objects such as the moon or Mars, growing plants in local soil is probably a better solution.

  • Astronauts grow vegetables They ate at the space station

but the local soils on these space objects are not like the soils we find on Earth, which have a complex combination of minerals, organic compounds and microbial life. So can plants adapt to these differences?

This is the question asked by a group of researchers at the University of Florida, including Anna-Lisa Paul, Stephen Elardo, and Robert Ferl decided to find out and used very rare material to do so: lunar soil brought to Earth by the Apollo missions.

BingMag.com <b>Scientists</b> <b>grow</b> <b>plants</b> on <b>lunar</b> <b>soil</b> for the <b>first</b> time

Working with moon soil in the laboratory
Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jone <//>

Use of lunar soil

There is a form of lunar soil called "regolith" or "rock cover", which is basically a loose, dusty material that is constantly bombarded by lunar rocks due to the fall of rocks. Is created. When the first specimens were returned to Earth during the Apollo period, studies on the interaction of these rocks with living organisms focused on fears of pathogens that could be life-threatening on Earth. As a result, plants and seeds were briefly exposed to the moon's soil and then tested to see if this exposure to the moon's soil altered their growth. But so far no effort has been made to grow anything on lunar soil.

Since then, NASA has developed a terrestrial material called JSC-1A, which is used to simulate lunar soil. But this material has significant differences with the actual soil of the moon, which includes chemical differences. Moon soil has higher levels of titanium as well as some rare minerals than JSC-1A. The earth's oxidizing environment also makes differences in the chemical status of some of the metals present, including iron as a key component of many enzymes, such as enzymes involved in photosynthesis.

BingMag.com <b>Scientists</b> <b>grow</b> <b>plants</b> on <b>lunar</b> <b>soil</b> for the <b>first</b> time

Anna-Lisa Paul tries to moisten the moon's soil with a pipette. Scientists have found that soils repel water (they are hydrophobic) and cause water droplets to accumulate on the surface. Therefore, active mixing of the material with water was required to break the hydrophobicity and wet the soil evenly. After wetting, the moon's soils can be wetted with capillary properties to grow the plant.
Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

Finally, there are some physical differences between these materials and the soil. There is a moon. The rapid melting and cooling due to the impact of meteorites on the rock rock creates small spheres of glass material. Although JSC-1A uses volcanic glass to approximate this process, there are still physical differences between them.

So the researchers decided to work with something real and use JSC-1A as a test control sample. . With the help of Johnson Space Center staff, they obtained three different lunar specimens returned by Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 17. The samples were all selected from areas of volcanic origin but different in age. According to this, Apollo 11 material was exposed to the longest and the material returned to Apollo 17 had the shortest volcanic activity.

Growth and stress

They built a system in which small sample wells were filled with 900 mg of soil and fed with water from below. The researchers chose "Arabidopsis", or "Rashadi", as the experimental plant, a small flowering plant similar to mustard and from the nightshade family that has been used in biological research so far. Using a well-known plant allowed researchers to track genes active in a variety of substances. About a week after the seeds were placed in the soil, they germinated normally, so the difference in soil was as great. It was not significant enough to interfere in this process. Several days later, the researchers removed all but one of the plants from each sample well and examined their growing roots compared to seedlings grown in JSC-1A.

BingMag.com <b>Scientists</b> <b>grow</b> <b>plants</b> on <b>lunar</b> <b>soil</b> for the <b>first</b> time

Arabidopsis plants 6 days after sowing seeds. The four test tubes on the left contain plants that grow in the JSC-1A lunar soil simulator. The three wells on the right have plants growing in the moon's soil.

Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

On average, growth in all lunar soils is slower and more irregular than growth. Was in JSC-1A. The leaves took longer to open, they were smaller in diameter, did not grow taller, and their pigmentation had changed. But these phenotypes (manifestations) or observable characteristics were variable. Some plants grown in lunar soil were clearly defective, while others seemed natural, albeit slightly smaller. The problems were generally related to the age of the rock cover, and the plants performed best in the Apollo 17 sample (the youngest sample). , Including genes associated with phosphate deficiency, metal toxicity, and reactive oxygen problems (due to differences in iron between soils). These genes make up more than 70 percent of the genes that are activated in JSC-1A compared to plants grown, and the rest are more closely linked to nutrient metabolism.

Researchers also classify plants into three defective categories They divided into small and almost ordinary. The last two groups had only 100 to 150 modified genes compared to the JSC-1A control group, most of which were involved in response to drought and salinity stress. But small samples contained more than 1,000 genes with different levels of activity.

Conclusion of the experiment

There are several ways to evaluate these results. First, the study indicates a serious stress test. While the samples were irrigated using a nutrient solution, the solution was poured into the lunar rock as it was; Without mixing with organic matter and without microbial growth that can remove some metal toxins before contact with plants. So the experimental structure made things more difficult than necessary.

On the other hand, anything that can prepare the moon's soil for better plant growth requires time and mass, two of which may be Very few space missions. From this point of view, the decision to use the moon's soil as it seems does not save the mass, and this reduces one of its benefits.

BingMag.com <b>Scientists</b> <b>grow</b> <b>plants</b> on <b>lunar</b> <b>soil</b> for the <b>first</b> time

Rob Ferrell on the left, and Anna-Lisa Paul look at the moon-filled plates and the part with the control soils that are now under the LED lights They are growing. At the time, Scientists did not know if these seeds would even germinate in the moon's soil.
Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

This experiment shows how many chemical treatments can be The leaching of some heavy metals and the conversion of iron to an oxidation state will help to be more similar to that seen in ordinary earth soils. But it is clear that while some plants can withstand the harsh conditions produced by rock cover, this process is not suitable for them. This means that we can probably not expect to use this system to grow anything edible, as it seems that plants are basically having trouble growing with lunar soil.

The most promising possibility of using this information as a platform Jumping to study more closely is something that causes plants to have trouble, and then begins to engineer and select the strains that can best tolerate the rock.

But even if this study does not work for us, it shows It shows that we do not have a very good reference for comparison with lunar soil, and there is certainly not enough rock cover sample to make this type of experiment possible. Working on materials that can make this type of study possible is perhaps the most urgent need to advance them.

  • Chinese examples of the moon

Cover Photo: Plant Breeding Reconstruction

Credit: Stock Photo via SciTechDaily


Source: Ars Technica

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