The researchers reported that they planted the seeds of a low flowering weed named Arabidopsis thaliana in 12 small containers. These containers are very small which are only equal to the tip of a human finger. In this only 1 gram of moon soil was added, which is called lunar regolith in the true sense. This soil is very different from Earth’s soil due to the lack of sharp particles and organic material, so scientists suspected that plants might not grow.
“When we first saw that all the samples had green shoots, we took our breath away,” said Anna Lisa Paul, a professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida. He said, “Plants can grow on the soil of the moon. This simple sentence is very big in itself and opens the door to the moon and Mars of the future.”
Each seed germinated in this soil and from the outside, no difference could be seen in the initial stages of germination in the lunar soil. This soil is mostly composed of crushed basalt rocks. The seeds were also grown in the ash of an erupting volcano on Earth because it also contains similar mineral elements and particles of similar size. Through this, scientists wanted to compare both types of soil.
Compared to plants grown in volcanic soil, plants grown in lunar soil did not grow as expected. They grew very slowly and were very small in size. Their roots were very dry and the leaves were small, whose color was red and black. It was telling that they could not develop healthy. They reacted in the same way as common plants to salt, metals and oxidation.
Paul said that even though plants could grow in the soil of the moon, but from a metabolic point of view, they had to work very hard. But growing them was a big deal for the researchers. He went on to say that it is only by growing plants that the possibility that we can go to the moon to grow our own food, clean the air and also recycle water with the help of plants, as on Earth. even do.
NASA provided only 12 grams of soil for this experiment, which was collected during the Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 17 missions. The researchers put 3-4 seeds in about a dozen containers and added a nutrient solution to them. After that, they were kept in the lab at a temperature of 23 °C, over which pink shade lights were also arranged.
The seeds germinated within 3 days. After a week these plants were removed, leaving only one. The remaining one plant was allowed to grow till 20 and then it was cut for genetic study. Scientists have found that the lunar soil, which has been exposed to cosmic rays and the solar wind for long periods, is not very good for plant growth.