Life on Mars: Earthworms born in simulated Martian environment

You may see them as garden insects, but earthworms are vital for the survival of any ecosystem. According to a new study, angleworms are capable of breeding in a Mars-like environment, a significant discovery that aids investigation into growing crops on Mars. Presently, scientists have observed that worms can reproduce in the Martian soil for the first time. The verdicts recommend that worms could reproduce on the red planet, in what is a significant step towards colonization of the Mars.

Investigators from Wageningen University conducted out an experiment that resembled life on Mars and showed that two young earthworms were born in affected Martian soil. The invention follows a study by the same team last year in which various vegetables were harvested from the same soil. The lead author of the study Dr Wieger Wamelink found the worms in a Mars soil similar that he borrowed from NASA. The surface of Mars is covered by sand and dust, formed by the erosion of iron-rich igneous rocks identical to basalt known as ‘Regolith’ this material can be granular, fine or powdery. NASA’s soil simulant arises from a volcano on Hawaii and Dr Wamelink has been building a spacecraft in it to which worms have been added along with pig slurry that imitates human waste.

Dr Wamelink stated that the worms were from my garden! But he was amazed when he discovered a couple of new arrivals – that he hadn’t entirely expected. Dr Wamelink declared that the fertilizer stimulated growth especially in the Mars soil simulant and we saw the worms were active. Though, the best surprise came at the end of the research when we noticed two young worms in the Mars soil simulant.

Dr Wamelink told human stool and urine would also have to be accepted to fertilise the soil, yet pig slurry is being used for functional and safety reasons, to feed future humans on the red planet a sustainable agricultural ecosystem is a must, and worms will play a significant role as they break down and recycle dead organic matter. The Mars soil even defeated silver sand, a fine white sand utilized by gardeners on Earth.  His team combined organic matter from earlier analyses to both grains of sand and the fertiliser to a sample of the pots. Then, after germination on the rocket, they put in the worms.

Dr Wamelink continued that we, accordingly, ended up with pots with all possible combinations except essential matter which was added to all of the pots. Dr Wamelink’s experiments are important in discovering if people can keep themselves alive on the red planet by growing their crops. Worms are required for healthy soil not only on Earth but also in future indoor gardens on the red planet or the moon.

mars worms plants in pots

They increase on dead organic matter such as old plant remains which they eat, chew and mix with soil before they eliminate it. This still includes organic matter that is broken down further by bacteria delivering nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium for utilize by the plants. By digging holes, the worms also aerate and improve the structure of the soil making watering the plants more efficient. The end proved to be very important in initial investigations where water would not merely penetrate the soil. Dr Wamelink declared that worms would solve this problem.

He told that the investigations started in 2013. Nowadays we can grow over a dozen crops the only species that has resisted our efforts so far is spinach. Crops such as green beans, peas, tomato, radish,  potato, carrot and garden cress all appear feasible. The crops were examined for heavy metals and also alkaloids to verify their safety for human consumption. After passing these tests, we organised a dinner based on the harvested crops for the people that helped our investigation via the crowdfunding operations.

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