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

  • G.W.W. Wamelink, J.Y. Frissel, W.H.J. Krijnen, M.R. Verwoert
  • Open Agriculture, October 2019, De Gruyter
  • DOI: 10.1515/opag-2019-0051

Growth of crops, e.g. tomato and radish, on Mars and moon soil simulant

Photo by Hoàng Duy Lê on Unsplash

Photo by Hoàng Duy Lê on Unsplash

What is it about?

When people will establish a settlement on Mars or the Moon, they will have to grow their own crops. Our view is that we use as much resources that are available at the site, in our case soil (regolith) and water (ice). Instead of real Mars or moon soil, which are not available on Earth, we use simulants. These simulants mimic Mars and moon Regolith as closely as possible. We added some organic matter (dead grass) as improvement of the regolith. Compared to our earlier research this improved water uptake capacity and nutrient availability of the soil. We also added a nutrient solution to mimic the addition of human faeces. This resulted in the growth of ten different crops on both Mars and moon soil simulant and the harvest of radish, tomato, peas and rye. Seeds formed by garden cress, radish and rye were sown in the regolith. Most of the seeds germinated, proving that a second generation of crops is possible.

Why is it important?

When we will have permanent settlements on the Moon or even Mars it will be necessary to grow the crops at the site. We believe that as much resources as possible from the site should be used to feed the future Martians or people on the moon. Therefore we use the soils for crop growth.


Wieger Wamelink
Wageningen Universiteit en Researchcentrum

For me this the next smaal step to the establishment of a human settlement on the Moon and even Mars. The experiment is a step forward in creating a closed sustainable agricultural ecosystem to feed future Mars or Moon inhabitants.

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The following have contributed to this page: Wieger Wamelink