Analysis suggests that crops grown on simulated Martian soil do not contain concentrations of heavy metals that would be dangerous for human health.
Earlier this year, Dutch scientists from Wageningen University and Research Center had successfully grown crops out of simulated Martian soil. The crops included beans, tomatoes, radishes, potatoes, peas and carrots.
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Growing crops on soil that mimics dirt on Mars was a remarkable achievement indeed but researchers were not sure whether the crops are safe to eat. The fear was that the high levels of heavy metals present in Martian soil could end up in the plants and make them harmful for humans. But recent analysis has found no alarmingly high levels of heavy metals such as copper, cadmium, or lead in the four crops that have been tested recently. These crops are actually edible.
“These remarkable results are very promising,” said senior ecologist Wieger Wamelink."We can actually eat the radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes, and I am very curious what they will taste like.”
Analysis further reveals that the concentrations of some of the heavy metals were lower than the crops grown in potting soil. Radishes had the highest amount of metals overall with a relatively high amount of aluminum, nickel and iron but researchers are not sure why this crop contains the unusually high levels of concentrations. Maybe, if radishes are properly washed, they will have lower amount of content.
The experiment was not possible without the special soil created by NASA. NASA has developed a replication of Mars soil and the Dutch research center used the soil to grow a total of 10 crops. Prior research has already demonstrated that Martian dirt does have the nutrients needed for the survival of plants. The only additional thing required was the organic matter. Mixing in organic matter from Earth made the sold hold water well and also provided right amount of nutrients for the growth of the plants.
The remaining six crops including potatoes will be tested for heavy metals in further researchers. A crowd-funding campaign will be set up to supplement the budget of the next experiments.
As humans are preparing to blast off to the Mars in future, these findings are considerably important. Human will need food when they colonized Mars and therefore it is necessary to find the crop variants that can grow at extreme conditions of the planet.
Wieger Wamelink says. “It’s important to test as many crops as possible, to make sure that settlers on Mars have access to a broad variety of different food sources.”
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