Scientists manage to grow plants on “asteroid” land

Lettuce, chili and radish plants grew in fake asteroid soil mixtures and thrived. Now scientists want to take the experiment into space.


Scientists have successfully grown lettuce, chili peppers and radishes on land similar to that of an asteroid and are looking to conduct the experiment in space.

Through a study in the Planetary Science Journal , scientists at the University of North Dakota managed to grow plants on artificial regolith of what would be a carbonaceous chondrite asteroid, opening new doors to science .

plants on asteroids

Scientists have previously grown crops on lunar soil . But the new study focuses on “carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, known to be rich in volatile sources, especially water,” says astroecologist Sherry Fieber-Beyer of the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks.

These meteorites, and their parent asteroids , are also rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous, key agricultural nutrients. Pulverizing these types of asteroids, perhaps as part of space mining efforts, could provide a ready supply of agricultural material in space.

During the experiment, the scientists grew them in fake asteroid soil with peat and other mixes. They claim that, as a result, each species reacted differently to each treatment. The asteroid -based simulant contained small amounts of plant-usable nutrients and low cation exchange despite having a high pH. However, pants grown in the asteroid ‘s false soil were more prone to drought-related stress.

space farming

The results remain promising for scientists, who believe they will open a door for space farming.

Fieber-Beyer and the team will attempt to grow pea seeds in a mixture of false asteroid soil and dead plants. The astroecologist is trying to increase the water retention capacity of the soil. She also added that next time they will select seeds as they weigh less than the peat mix.

And the next step will be to try it on a real asteroid .