From Earth to Moon: Texas Grad Student Cultivates Chickpeas in Lunar Soil
Growing plants on the moon sounds crazy. But one grad student in Texas just did it with chickpeas and moondust!
Jessica Atkin, a soil science student at Texas A&M, has always loved space travel. She decided to tackle an impossible challenge – lunar farming. After all, the moon has no soil, just harsh dust with toxins like iron and aluminum. And barely any nutrients, microbes, or gravity that plants need.
Atkin created a special soil recipe to overcome these hurdles. She added two secret ingredients: beneficial fungi and vermicompost, aka worm poop!
The fungi form handy partnerships with plant roots. This helps shield plants from toxic dust while improving water and nutrient absorption – handy on the dry moon.
Meanwhile, nutrient-rich vermicompost provides organic matter that lunar dust lacks. Atkin suggests astronauts could start worm farms up there, feeding them leftover food and items.
For her moon crop, Atkin chose chickpeas. As legumes, they work well with fungi teammates. They also pack protein and need less water and nitrogen than other plants.
Incredibly, Atkin grew chickpeas all the way to seed stage in simulated moondust – up to 75% dust mixed with her soil recipe. No one’s ever done this before!
It shows future lunar explorers could farm their own crops using moondust instead of relying only on supplies from Earth. This could lower costs while benefiting astronaut health and happiness.
Atkin admits plants grow slower on lunar dust and show more stress. She’ll keep studying how multiple generations fare, and test other veggie options. Worm composting in space could reduce the need for resource shipments from Earth too.
It’s early days, but Atkin’s chickpea breakthrough gives real hope for agriculture beyond our world. The moon may soon have an organic farm stand!