In exciting research, a lab in the Netherlands has successfully led to the birth of healthy earthworms in the simulated Martian soil, boosting hopes for future farming on the red planet. The latest research has made the possibility of living on Mars a bit more realistic because if earthworms can take birth on Martian soil, then the possibility of a healthy agricultural system on Martian surface is on our cards.
A biology lab led by Wieger Wamelink in the Netherlands’ Wageningen University and Research Centre has been trying to grow plants in the soil that mimics Martian soil for quite a few years, and recently the team announced that in their lab, Martian worms had taken birth. To know whether earthworms could take birth on simulated martial soil, Wamelink decided to put two adult earthworms in the mock martian soil to see whether they could reproduce. And to his excitement, they did and gave birth to two worm babies.
The soil used in the lab is the hybrid of “stimulants”, a NASA-produced soil that is composed of mainly volcanic terrestrial rocks, sands along with a mixture of the small amount of pig manure and arugula. The volcanic rock was collected from Hawaii, and the desert sand was collected from Arizona.
In a news release, Wamelink said, “Clearly the manure stimulated growth, especially in the Mars soil simulant, and we saw that the worms were active. However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil stimulant.”
Since2013, Wamelink and his team have been growing crops in Mars and moon soil stimulants developed by NASA. Till now they have successfully grown edible crops like peas, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, etc., but it remains to be seen whether they are sustainable or not. And the latest successful experiment to make earthworms take birth on simulated Martian soil raised hopes of the possible agricultural ecosystem on Mars. “To feed future humans on Mars, a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem is a necessity. Worms will play a crucial role in this system as they break down and recycle dead organic matter”, stated the research team of the Wageningen University. They further said that worms would be very crucial for “future indoor gardens on Mars or the moon, by releasing nutrients used by plants and digging burrows that improve soil structure, allowing for better absorption.
Although the worms have successfully taken birth on simulated Martian soil, it remains to be seen whether they can perform their tasks properly like digesting organic matter, mixing them with the soil and borrowing them. Excited by the new find and its potential for future Martin prospects, the biological lab has launched a crowdfunding initiative called Worms for Mars to carry on the research regarding earthworm’s births and livelihoods on the Martian soil.