We Just Discovered Earthworms Can Survive in Martian Soil

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 - 11:10AM
Mars
Tuesday, 28 November 2017 - 11:10AM
We Just Discovered Earthworms Can Survive in Martian Soil
Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons
This is the kind of discovery that changes everything. We finally have proof that humans could one day successfully farm on Mars.
 
Biologist Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands has announced that he discovered young worms that were birthed in a Mars soil simulant he obtained from NASA.

Wamelink has been watching over the soil, in which arugula had been planted and is growing. Adult worms and pig excrement were added to stimulate the growth of the plant (although once on Mars it will be astronaut dung that does the fertilizing).
 
"Clearly the manure stimulated growth, especially in the Mars soil simulant, and we saw that the worms were active," Wamelink said.

"However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant."



Worms are likely to play an important role in any sustainable, controlled agriculture put down by human visitors on Mars, as the wriggly critters would be expected to do on Mars what they do here: chowing down on dead organic matter in soil and excreting it, increasing fertility. Worm burrowing also aerates soil, making watering more effective.
 
Wamelink also found that the adding of manure, while doing what it was expected to do, actually made the simulated Mars soil outperform Earth native silver sand, which is used effectively by horticulturists and gardeners for growing. The comparison was made following a process that involved first adding organic matter to both soils, followed by manure and then worms once the arugula germinated. 
 
The researchers believe cultivation on Mars could include radishes, tomatoes, carrots, garden cress, potatoes and green beans, although spinach has not shown much promise—which gives finicky kids another reason to dream about one day becoming Mars mission astronauts.
 
Anyone looking to kick some financial support to Wamelink and his team can visit their crowdfunding page.

Science
Space
Mars
This Discovery Proves We Can Farm on Mars
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