Farming on Mars: 'The Martian' Raises Questions About Soil On Mars

First Posted: Oct 31, 2015 05:47 PM EDT

Researchers are becoming more curious about Martian soil, and they are examining the possibilities of farming on Mars, according to a news release.

After "The Martian" saw movie astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) grow potatoes on Mars, researchers have become more curious as to if Watney's technique could actually work.

"A good soil for growing crops will have structure to hold the plant up, and provide the nutrients needed for growth. This is where Watney was headed in his soil recipe," said Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University, in a news release. "Of course, he had to use only the resources with him on the planet."

In the movie, "The Martian" Watney combines mars soil along with his own feces to develop a type of nutrient rich soil.

"In theory, Watney's waste would provide nutrients for growing plants," said Mary Stromberger, soil microbiologist from Colorado State University.

The Mars soil mix that Watney created does not have the 'complex food web of microbes' like Earth. There may be difficulties in recycling nutrients between soil and plants and atmosphere, according to Stromberger.

"We don't know if the fecal bacteria could thrive on Mars, even in a controlled environment," said Stromberger.

The Soil Science Society of America invited Jim Bell to the International Year of Soils celebration to discuss the possibilities of soils' existence on other planets and farming potentials. 

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