Good news for farmers from the world of science! The soil composition similar to Mars can hinder earthworm reproduction. A group of researchers in the Wageningen University & Research in Netherlands have found that earthworms can reproduce in the Mars stimulant soil developed by NASA.
Martian soil simulant is a really important tool for researching Mars missions. It is based on data obtained by Mars rovers and orbiters and its composition is as close to the material on Mars as possible based on the information available. This soil stimulant is entirely different from the earthy soil which is organic in nature.
At first, the researchers added only adult worms. The experiments are crucial in the research that aims to determine whether people can keep themselves alive by growing crops at Mars. They used pig slurry to enrich the soil.
The researchers said that worms are very important for a healthy soil, not only on Earth but also in future indoor gardens on Mars or the Moon. They thrive on a dead organic matter such as old plant remains, which they eat, chew and mix with soil before they excrete it.
By digging burrows the worms also aerate and improve the structure of the soil, making watering the plants more efficient. The researchers said they were able to grow over a dozen crops in the Mars soil simulant. The crops also passed a safety test for human consumption. “The only species that has resisted our efforts so far is spinach,” the researchers said.
This research is a part of crowdfunded “Food for Mars and Moon” project which has been aiming to cultivate in Mars-like and Moon-like soil since 2013.