Soil bacteria could make farming on Mars possible / News

Mars provides inhospitable living conditions. Farming as we know it on Earth is difficult there, but perhaps not impossible: Soil bacteria could help a future Martian colony establish agricultural fields.

Terrestrial soil bacteria can improve plant growth in Martian soil. US researchers said in the journal that they will provide them with vital nitrogen, which is not available in Mars Regolith. “Plus One”. Bacteria could be an inexpensive way to make Martian soil more fertile in the event of long-term colonization to enable local food production. Regolite is the name given to the bulk material formed by weathering of the parent rocks of rocky planets or, for example, the Moon.

Due to climate change, potential pandemics, or other events that could wipe out humanity, it is unlikely that humans will do so. One Planet Types It can go on, write the researchers collaborating with Franklin Harris of Colorado State University (USA). For this reason, it is necessary to develop methods that allow alien cultivation on other celestial bodies, such as Mars. The harsh conditions on Mars make arable farming very difficult. The surface material of Mars lacks many nutrients that plants on Earth need to grow, such as nitrogen for example. In addition, the atmosphere is thinner, radiation is stronger, and temperatures are more extreme.

Nitrogen deficiency
In their study, the researchers addressed the problem of nitrogen deficiency. They have grown sweet yellow clover (Melilotus officinalis) in both traditional soil and man-made soil. Then they added nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Sinorhizobium meliloti) to half of the cultures. These nodule bacteria can be found in the roots of many types of plants on Earth, such as peas, beans, and alfalfa. They are able to bind nitrogen (N) from the atmosphere and then make it available to plants in a soluble form. Bacteria live by substances they get from plants.

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The addition of bacteria improved plant growth, especially in the soil, but also in the soil. Shoots of plants in soils with bacteria were 2.5 times longer than those without, and the biomass of shoots and roots more than doubled. In fact, the plants also interacted with the bacteria in the regolith and formed corresponding nodules on their roots. However, the number of nodules in the regolith was much lower than in the soil: an average of 14.5 versus 63.

More research is needed
The researchers were unable to find nitrogen in the regolith, and presumably the growing plants had used up all the nitrogen themselves. In addition, no rot of the plants occurred in the short period of the experiments. The nitrogen remained in the roots and did not end up in the environment.

“This work will improve our understanding of plant-microbe interactions and will help make regolith on Mars more similar to terrestrial soil,” The researchers write. Useful development “astronomical farming techniques” However, more studies are needed.

According to the analyzes of the Mars rover, the regolith lacks many other micronutrients such as copper, boron, and molybdenum in addition to nitrogen. To what extent and how the thin atmosphere of Mars affects plant growth remains unclear. Additionally, the atmosphere contains only a fraction of the nitrogen available in Earth’s atmosphere for nitrogen-fixing bacteria – 1.2 versus 78 percent.

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