Mars Exchange
Food for Mars: Pea Harvest

Food for Mars: Pea Harvest

by Natasha Schön on Tuesday, 7th July 2015 in Food for Mars, People, Wieger Wamelink

As you know I am quite fond of my peas! Therefore I recently had an exciting but also a rather sad day when I harvested them. It is great to see how well they have grown on the Mars soil simulant. The rest of the experiment will have to do without peas, unless...This is the seventh post in a blog series about experiments conducted by a team of ecologists and crop scientists of Wageningen UR. The goal of these experiments is a proof of concepts for providing the first (human) Martians with ‘own-grown’ fresh food. Find the links to our first six blog posts below!

Beside the peas, the garden cress has formed many seeds and the radish is also growing seeds. I harvested the cress, giving the other species more space to grow. The tomatoes are clearly profiting from it since they are setting off now, trying to reach the sky. They will need some support to keep them upright soon and we will have to come up with a plan to do that without interfering with the other species. The tomatoes will also need some thinning, because more seeds germinated than expected, especially compared to our first experiment. The rye plants are also forming seeds and are getting so heavy at the top that they are bending over. They will therefore have to be bound together in order to stay upright, nice, and tidy. Now that we have many seeds from the garden cress and also peas, we could either have them analysed for heavy metals, or use them for a second generation in the experiment. Decisions will need to be made, but I am already sure that we will try to have a second generation of garden cress in the experiment, closing the cycle, since if the cress germinates successfully we will then know if we can produce fertile seeds on the Mars soil simulant.

I mentioned before that the seeds of the rye are ripening fast and the stems are struggling to hold the weight of the seeds. On a different note, it's not only the plants that are growing fast since there has been a lot of interest from the press lately.

Story contributed by Wieger Wamelink, a Senior Ecologist at Alterra. 

More Information:

Flowering plant of garden rocket on soil simulant - to form seeds it needs to be pollinated. 

Ripe seeds of the Garden Cress.

The harvested peas from the Mars soil simulant before they go in the ‘oven’ to dry at 28 0C (82.4F).

Radish pod, with developing seeds in it, on Mars soil simulant.

Sign up for our Newsletter Close