A new research suggests Martian and Moon soil is fertile to harvest crops at off-world colonies.

According to research published in October in the journal Open Agriculture, the Martian and Moon soil is fertile to harvest crops to feed future settlers.

Researchers at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands produced crops in Mars and Moon soil simulant developed by NASA. The soil simulated properties of Lunar and Martian regolith and normal soil (from planet Earth) as a control. This soil simulant contains heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury and also a lot of iron.

Life on Mars

Last month, two planetary scientists published a paper that examined what it would take to feed 1 million future settlers of Mars. The modern food system would need to become self-sufficient and in the meantime, we can find ways to transport large amounts of produce from Earth.

According to researchers, insect farming and cellular agriculture would help us feed future settlers. Plants would have to be grown indoors due to the incompatible atmosphere on Mars.

The team at Wageningen University & Research tried to grow ten different crops in the soil out of which nine grew edible parts and viable seeds. This variety of crops included tomato, garden cress, rocket, radish, rye, spinach, chives, leek, quinoa, and peas. The seeds produced by radish, eye and garden cress were tested successfully for germination.

This doesnโ€™t exactly promise effortless crop cultivation on Mars and the Moon. Future farmers may have to endeavor countless challenges one of which still remains to be the lack of an atmosphere.

"We were thrilled when we saw the first tomatoes ever grown on Mars soil simulant turning red. It meant that the next step towards a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem had been taken," said Wieger Wamelink.