Veggies Grown in Fake Martian Soil Are Deemed Safe to Eat

June 28, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Peas being grown in Mars-like soil.
Photo credit: Wieger Wamelink, Wageningen University and Research Centre. Caption: Peas being grown in Mars-like soil.

Get in line for a taste!

Dutch researchers have successfully grown radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes in simulated soils designed to match those found on Mars and the moon.

One concern about farming on the Red Planet and the moon has been the presence of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and copper in their soils. If these metals are absorbed by certain parts of the crops, they can become inedible for humans.

But testing revealed that the heavy metal contents of the four crops were well below concentrations that would be dangerous for human health. In fact, the levels of some heavy metals (lead, arsenic, and copper) were even lower than those of crops grown in Earth potting soil.

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"For radish, pea, rye and tomato we did a preliminary analysis and the results are very promising," said ecologist Wieger Wamelink, from Wageningen University and Research Centre, in a press release. "We can eat them and I am very curious as to how the tomatoes will taste.”

Further tests are needed for 6 remaining crops, including potatoes, which the researchers hope to carry out with support from a crowdfunding campaign. Once they have determined that all 10 crops are safe to eat, they plan to organize a meal for their sponsors featuring their faux-Martian veggies.

Though the results bode well for the agricultural success of future Mars settlers, the soil used in the experiments was mixed based on compositions estimates of real Martian soil from NASA. It remains to be seen whether the results will stand up to crops grown in soil from the planet itself.

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