For the first time in history, scientists have successfully grown plants in soil taken from the lunar surface. According to experts, this is a milestone in the process of exploring the Silver Globe and the entire universe. An article describing this achievement was published in the journal Communications Biology.
The authors are researchers at the University of Florida (USA). They showed that plants germinate and grow successfully in moon soil. In addition, they described the mechanism by which this biology is activated in plants after contact with foreign soil, called lunar regolith, which is completely different from the ground found on Earth.
This work, as the authors emphasize, may be the first step in growing plants on the moon, which will provide food and oxygen for future space travel participants. As they add, more advanced research on this issue will appear as soon as humans return to the moon, which is expected soon. The American space program Artemis plans to do so by 2025.
The big problem is that they only had 12 grams of lunar “earth”, so only a few tablespoons. They got it from NASA after 11 years of trying. Soil collected during the Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 17 space missions.
The scarcity of research materials, not to mention its unimaginable historical and scientific significance, meant that Paul and Ferrell had to design a very small-scale experiment. To create their miniature moon garden, they used thimble-sized wells drilled in plastic sheets commonly used to grow cells. Each well functioned as a flowerpot; Each was filled with about 1 g of substrate, moistened with a special nutrient, and some radish seeds were added.
Arabidopsis taliana is a plant commonly used in botanical experiments because its genome is fully sequenced and mapped. The decision to select this species gave scientists the opportunity to see how lunar soil affects plants, even at the level of genetic expression.
The control group consisted of radish plants planted in non-moon soil: soil collected from normal and intense terrestrial environments.
To the surprise of the experimenters, all the seeds planted in the lunar regolith germinated.
We were surprised. “It simply came to our notice then. This is clear evidence that lunar soil does not interfere with phytohormones or other germination signals.
Variations in cultivation
Over time, however, scientists have discovered differences between the control group of plants grown on ‘earth’ brought from the moon. The “moon” seedlings were small, varying more slowly or more than their “regular” counterparts. Some of them also had slightly different pigmentation.
As the authors explain, all of these symptoms indicate that the plants are trying to cope with the chemical and structural composition of the lunar soil. This was further confirmed when scientists studied the expression patterns of plant genes.
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