Mars Exchange
Food for Mars: Radish

Food for Mars: Radish

by Natasha Schön on Wednesday, 3rd June 2015 in Food for Mars, People, Wieger Wamelink

The radishes are growing well and this week I harvested the first bulbs from the Martian soil simulant. Actually, they look better than the radishes on the earth control. This is not because they grow faster or germinated better but because fewer plants survived on the Mars soil simulant, giving more space for the survivors and thus better radishes. - This is the fifth post in a blog series about experiments conducted by a team of ecologist and crop scientist of Wageningen UR. The goal of these experiments is a proof of concepts for providing the first (human) Martians with own-grown fresh food. Make sure to read our first four blog posts!

While the plants in the moon soil simulant are less robust than on the Mars soil simulant, it is in the Moon soil that the first edible parts of the radishes are forming; which is one of the biggest surprises in this experiment untill now. This is because most of the plants did not get past the seedling stage in the first experiment. We decided to harvest part of the radishes and let the rest grow on to blossom and form new seeds. This is how the (human) Martians will have to do it as well; part of the harvest can be eaten, and part will be used for the growth of new seeds for the next production cycle.

What are we going to do with the harvested radishes? Eat them? I do not dare, and there are protocols to be followed. First we have to make sure that it is safe to eat the radishes. From earlier analyses done by NASA we know that there are heavy metals in both Mars and moon soil simulants and they can be highly poisonous for humans. From our own analyses we know that the heavy metals are not present in in the soil solution (heavy metals may dissolve from the soil into the water), so it is unlikely that the heavy metals are present in the radishes. But since I am not completely sure I am not going to eat them...yet. We will therefore dry the first harvest and store it for later analyses for heavy metals. I would like to have the answer about whether they are edible soon, but at the moment we do not have the funding to conduct the analyses. That is why I am thinking of selling the harvest...

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

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Radish on Mars soil simulant. It looks fine, but is it edible due to the heavy metals?

Radish on the moon soil simulant.

The first harvest of radish, with left grown on moon soil simulant (the only ‘bulb’), in the middle grown on Mars soil simulant (one of many) and right earth soil control (one of many, many bulbs), on 22-05-2015.

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