If humans want to live life on Mars for long period it’ll be necessary to grow their own crops over there. And what’s more logical than growing the crops in green-house on the surface, taking advantage of the day sun light , as seen in many scientific designs & Sci-fi movies? However, will this be possible giving the high amount of cosmic-radiation at the Martian surface level? Wageningen University & Research and therefore the Reactor Institute Delft (RID, TU Delft) are investigating for a few time now the effect of radiation on Martian surface on plant growth. This revealed that, a bit like humans, plants also got to be shielded from the radiation .
Bsc, student Nyncke Tack investigated the effect of gamma ray as was recorded by the Mars rover Curiosity on garden-cress & rye. “Because the radiation on Mars is far above on Earth (230 μGy/d, about 17 times above on Earth) the experiment was administered under strict safety precautions. We conducted the experiment during a special ‘led castle’ and in fume hood,” says Tack. there have been multiple effects of the radiation visible, including brown leaves & dwarfed growth. Besides that, also the harvest was disappointing & less than the non-radiated control. This was no surprise for PI (principle investigator) and space farmer Wieger Wamelink, “I always expected that the radiation would have a negative effect on plant growth also , but it had been never alright investigated so we would have liked to verify if this expectation was correct.”
The radiation was emitted by 5 cobalt 60 sources, especially ‘made’ by RID. The sources were placed above the plants to make a plane radiation-field like Mars. The growing plants were radiated constantly for 28 days & harvested afterwards. Creating a plane radiation-field is hard which is why 5 sources were wont to prevent one plant to receive a better dose than another plant, which might otherwise influence the result of the experiment. We only used gamma ray where on Mars radiation consists of alpha, beta gamma & UV radiation, so there are still differences, but the dose was about an equivalent as what Mars receives.
“Now that it’s clear that we will expect negative effects on plant growth thanks to the radiation on Mars, we’ve to guard them. An option is to grow the plants below ground in dome where most of the radiation cannot penetrate in order that humans are protected also ,” Wamelink affirms. “It may be a bigger challenge than growing plants in greenhouse on the surface, but it also makes life easier since we will grow plants under fully controlled circumstances, applying LED light. that’s why we started 1st experiments now in a conflict bunker in Arnhem near Wageningen, below ground but in-fully controlled surrounding.” This research within the bunker functions within the project of the Green Bunker of Local Circles in Arnhem.
The findings were provided by Wageningen University