The plants grown by Wageningen University researchers in martial soil back in March have been analyzed and the results are scrumptious: at least four of the crops do not contain harmful heavy metal levels and are perfectly safe to eat, the University researcher’s report.
If you’ve seen The Martian, you can remember how much Matt Damon got done living off of his poo-powered crop of potatoes. It just goes to show how important it is for a long-term colony to be able to grow their own food locally. We’ve taken one step closer to that goal in March, when Netherlands’ Wageningen University reported that they’ve managed to grow ten different crops in Mars-like soil.
However, growing food doesn’t do us much good if eating it kills us, and researchers were worried that these crops contained dangerous heavy metals like lead or cadmium, leached out from the soil stimulant. But future colonists rejoice, as lab analysis of the crops determined that at least four of them are safe to eat.
Led by ecologist Wieger Wamelink, the team tested radishes, tomatoes, rye, and peas. They looked at cadmium, lead, aluminium, nickel, copper, chrome, iron, arsenic, manganese, and zinc contents in the plants, and didn’t find any in dangerous levels. In fact, some of these veggies have lower levels of heavy metals than those cultivated in regular potting soil. The plants were also tested for vitamins, alkaloids, and flavonoids, with good results. While there are six more crops to test, Wamelink himself said that the results up to now are “very promising.”
NASA and Mars One are competing to be the first on Mars but both groups support the research.
“Growing food locally is especially important to our mission of permanent settlement, as we have to ensure sustainable food production on Mars. The results of Dr. Wamelink and his team at Wageningen University & Research are significant progress towards that goal,” said Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp in a press release.
A crowdfunding campaign is underway (and will be until the end of August) to allow the team to test the remaining crops, potatoes included. If all the crops test out safe, with concentrations of heavy metal lower than those stipulated by the FDA and the Dutch Food Agency as safe, Wamelink’s team will host a “Martian dinner” at the Wageningen greenhouse.
But I’ve seen the movie. Stay clear of the potatoes.