University of Florida researchers grow plants in "moon dirt" for the first time ever

Kristen Walters

Have you ever wondered if plants could be grown on the moon? Several scientists at the University of Florida did, and what they discovered is pretty intriguing.

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Scientists have long predicted that the moon will be used as a "hub" for further space exploration in the future. So, it's not surprising that researchers had an interest in the possibility of growing plants for food and oxygen production that could be used during space missions.

For years, the question of whether it was even possible to grow plants in the moon's soil was left unanswered. Instead, many wondered, "what would plants do in a lunar greenhouse?" and "could we have lunar farmers one day?"

Interestingly enough, a recent research study conducted by scientists at the University of Florida confirmed that it is, in fact, possible for Earthly seeds to grow in lunar soil from the moon.

The scientists only had 12 grams of "moon dirt" to work with for the experiment, which made things quite challenging. The dirt had been collected during the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 missions to the moon, meaning that some of the soil was nearly 53 years old.

In order to grow their miniature "lunar garden," the researchers used thimble-sized containers, each filled with about one gram of soil from the moon. Next, they moistened the soil, added a few "Arabidopsis" seeds, and provided the containers with a light source.

To their delight, nearly all of the planted seeds spouted.

One interesting thing that the researchers discovered was that the plants grown in the "moon soil" grew at a slower rate than those grown in dirt from the Earth and tended to be smaller in size.

The experiment's findings were published in a scholarly journal called "Communications Biology."

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