If we were ever to send humans to Mars for a long-term or permanent visit, then it’d be essential that we develop some sort of renewable food source. One idea would be planting vegetables in Martian soil and growing them to edible capacities; but just how feasible is this idea?
In 2016, researchers filled planting containers with simulated Martian soil and successfully grew different plants including chives, peas, spinach, and tomatoes among other things in the mixtures. Notably, however, this was with the help of organic fertilizer, which helped water pass through the soil and to the plants’ roots.
As it turns out, Martian soil is rich in nutrients, but it’s somewhat different in composition because it’s a lot more like regolith. On the other hand, soil found in different parts of Mars contains different combinations of nutrients – the same happens here on Earth. That said, certain Martian soil mixtures could be more plant-friendly than others.
Some Martian soil is high in heavy metal content, and this would be toxic for the plants that absorb them and for any humans that would then ingest those tainted plants. Given the circumstances, this soil would need to be processed before it could be used for plant-growing, otherwise, it would produce toxic food.
The idea of growing plants on another planet isn’t new, but technology is advancing rapidly, and it could become possible sooner rather than later.