Feeding off-world colonies: Leeks and tomatoes can be grown in Martian soil - Digital Trends - Canadanewsmedia
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Feeding off-world colonies: Leeks and tomatoes can be grown in Martian soil – Digital Trends

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Wamelink et al were able to harvest radishes and radish seeds, cress and cress seeds, rye seeds, rocket, tomatoes and peas on Mars and Moon soil simulants. This photo shows experimental trays on April 16, 2015, seven days after sowing. Wamelink et al, doi: 10.1515/opag-2019-0051

In a move that takes us one step closer to creating a colony on another planet, scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to grow edible food crops in soil like that found on Mars and the moon.

“A (permanent) human settlement on Mars or the Moon is becoming more realistic,” authors Dr. Wieger Wamelink and colleagues said in their paper. “Several countries and private companies are preparing for this journey. One of the major issues will be ensuring food availability and safety. Food can and will be brought along, but for a permanent stay, production of crops on Mars or the Moon to supplement or even supply the total food demand could be a necessity.”

To meet this need for food grown off-planet, the authors looked at whether crops could be grown in soils similar to the regolith found on the moon or on Mars. Real samples of moon regolith are very rare, as you can imagine, and there are no samples of Martian regolith on Earth. So for the experiments, the scientists used two simulated soils created by NASA which have similar properties to the Mars and moon regoliths. They then compared various crops to see how well they grew in the simulated regolith compared to normal soil.

To see which foods grew best, the experiment tried a number of crop varieties with edible parts: Garden cress, rocket, tomato, radish, rye, quinoa, spinach, chives, peas, and leek. In addition to health benefits of these crops, the authors also considered what foods would be flavorful and enjoyable for astronauts to eat. “Leek, radish, rocket, and chives were also selected because of their spicy taste,” the authors explained in the paper. “Astronauts on the ISS often complain about the taste of their food and spicy crops may therefore be a welcome addition to their diet.”

With the exception of spinach, which didn’t grow well, all nine other plants were able to grow even in the nutrient-poor regolith. The researchers were also able to harvest seeds from radishes, cress, and rye, which is important as germination is key to long-term crop cultivation. This means it is potentially possible to grow edible crops away from Earth, which brings us closer to being able to build a sustainable off-world base.

“We were thrilled when we saw the first tomatoes ever grown on the Mars soil simulant turning red,” Dr. Wamelink said in a statement. “This means that the next step towards a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem had been taken.”

The findings are published in the journal Open Agriculture.

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China's huge mysterious extinct ape 'Giganto' was an orangutan cousin – The Province

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WASHINGTON — Genetic material extracted from a 1.9 million-year-old fossil tooth from southern China shows that the world’s largest-known ape – an extinct creature dubbed “Giganto” that once inhabited Southeast Asia – was an oversized cousin of today’s orangutans.

The findings, announced on Wednesday, shed light on a species, called Gigantopithecus blacki, that has been shrouded in mystery because its fossil remains are so sparse – just a collection of teeth and remnants of several lower jaws.

By some estimates, Gigantopithecus reached up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall, making it not only the largest-known ape but the biggest primate, the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans.

Scientists were able to obtain genetic material – dental enamel proteins – from a broken molar with thick enamel discovered in Chuifeng Cave in China’s Guangxi region. The researchers concluded the tooth may have belonged to an adult female.

“Our data, for the first time, provides independent molecular evidence that the closest living relative of Gigantopithecus is the modern orangutan,” said University of Copenhagen molecular anthropologist Frido Welker, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

“Not only do proteins survive, but they survive in sufficient quantities to enable resolving the evolutionary relationships between Giganto and extant great apes,” Welker added, referring to the group that includes orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees.

The orangutan and Gigantopithecus evolutionary lineages split about 12 million years ago, the researchers said.

“A long-unresolved issue comes to a solution,” said paleoanthropologist and study co-author Wei Wang of Shandong University in China. “Its origin and evolution have puzzled paleoanthropologists for more than half a century.”

It marked the first time that genetic material this old has been recovered from a fossil found in a warm, humid environment – conditions usually inhospitable to such preservation. The researchers expressed hope the same technique can be used on other fossils, perhaps including species in the human evolutionary lineage.

Wang said Gigantopithecus may have had an orangutan-like appearance and most likely was a ground-dweller, unlike orangutans, which spend most of their time in trees. It likely had a plant-based diet, perhaps eating sweet foods like fruit in forested environments, judging from the cavities seen in its teeth, Wang said.

Gigantopithecus appeared roughly 2 million years ago and went extinct about 300,000 years ago for reasons not fully understood. Wang said environmental and climate changes may be to blame.

Our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared about 300,000 years ago in Africa, only later reaching Southeast Asia, meaning it is unlikely the two species met. Wang saw no evidence of other now-extinct human species playing a role in the Gigantopithecus demise.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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China's huge mysterious extinct ape 'Giganto' was an orangutan cousin – Windsor Star

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WASHINGTON — Genetic material extracted from a 1.9 million-year-old fossil tooth from southern China shows that the world’s largest-known ape – an extinct creature dubbed “Giganto” that once inhabited Southeast Asia – was an oversized cousin of today’s orangutans.

The findings, announced on Wednesday, shed light on a species, called Gigantopithecus blacki, that has been shrouded in mystery because its fossil remains are so sparse – just a collection of teeth and remnants of several lower jaws.

By some estimates, Gigantopithecus reached up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall, making it not only the largest-known ape but the biggest primate, the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans.

Scientists were able to obtain genetic material – dental enamel proteins – from a broken molar with thick enamel discovered in Chuifeng Cave in China’s Guangxi region. The researchers concluded the tooth may have belonged to an adult female.

“Our data, for the first time, provides independent molecular evidence that the closest living relative of Gigantopithecus is the modern orangutan,” said University of Copenhagen molecular anthropologist Frido Welker, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

“Not only do proteins survive, but they survive in sufficient quantities to enable resolving the evolutionary relationships between Giganto and extant great apes,” Welker added, referring to the group that includes orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees.

The orangutan and Gigantopithecus evolutionary lineages split about 12 million years ago, the researchers said.

“A long-unresolved issue comes to a solution,” said paleoanthropologist and study co-author Wei Wang of Shandong University in China. “Its origin and evolution have puzzled paleoanthropologists for more than half a century.”

It marked the first time that genetic material this old has been recovered from a fossil found in a warm, humid environment – conditions usually inhospitable to such preservation. The researchers expressed hope the same technique can be used on other fossils, perhaps including species in the human evolutionary lineage.

Wang said Gigantopithecus may have had an orangutan-like appearance and most likely was a ground-dweller, unlike orangutans, which spend most of their time in trees. It likely had a plant-based diet, perhaps eating sweet foods like fruit in forested environments, judging from the cavities seen in its teeth, Wang said.

Gigantopithecus appeared roughly 2 million years ago and went extinct about 300,000 years ago for reasons not fully understood. Wang said environmental and climate changes may be to blame.

Our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared about 300,000 years ago in Africa, only later reaching Southeast Asia, meaning it is unlikely the two species met. Wang saw no evidence of other now-extinct human species playing a role in the Gigantopithecus demise.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Mercury spotted passing between Sun & Earth in rare 30-year event – TweakTown

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Just this past Monday, astronomers viewed Mercury sliding past the face of our Sun in quite a rare celestial event.

Astronomers equipped themselves to see the most inner-planet in our solar system go in-between Earth and the Sun. From the above image, we can see a tiny black dot, that’s Mercury in comparison to the size of the Sun. US, Canada, and Central and South America managed to get the transition for around 5.5 hours, while Asia and Australia only got a brief show.

Why is this a rare transition? Due to the orbit of Mercury, astronomers don’t expect to this occur until 2032, and North America, in particular, won’t be able to see it again until 2049. Unfortunately, there was some weather coverage in Maryland for NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young, he said “It’s a bummer, but the whole event was still great. Both getting to see it from space and sharing it with people all over the country and world.” A set of images have been provided in the entirety of this article.

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