Crop growth and viability of seeds on Mars and Moon soil simulants

G.W.W. Wamelink 1 , J.Y. Frissel 2 , W.H.J. Krijnen 3 , and M.R. Verwoert 3
  • 1 Alterra, Wageningen UR, Netherlands
  • 2 Alterra, Wageningen UR, Netherlands
  • 3 Unifarm, Wageningen UR, , Netherlands


If humans are going to establish a base on the Moon or on Mars they will have to grow their own crops. An option is to use Lunar and Martian regolith. These regoliths are not available for plant growth experiments, therefore NASA has developed regolith simulants. The major goal of this project was to cultivate and harvest crops on these Mars and Moon simulants. The simulants were mixed with organic matter to mimic the addition of residues from earlier harvests. Ten different crops, garden cress, rocket, tomato, radish, rye, quinoa, spinach, chives, pea and leek were sown in random lines in trays. Nine of the ten species grew well with the exception of spinach. It was possible to harvest edible parts for nine out of ten crops. The total biomass production per tray was highest for the Earth control and Mars soil simulant and differed significantly from Moon soil simulant. The seeds produced by three species were tested for germination (radish, rye and cress). The germination on Moon soil simulant was significantly lower in radish than for the Earth control soil.

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