Science – Genetically modified rice can survive on Martian soil – Publimetro México

Madrid, 27 years (European press)

This is the conclusion of a new investigation presented at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by a team of interdisciplinary researchers from the University of Arkansas, which brings botanist Mark Watney’s fictional story, the plot of the movie The Martian, closer to reality.

One of the biggest challenges to growing food on Mars is the presence of perchlorate salts, which have been detected in the planet’s soil and are generally considered toxic to plants.

The team was able to simulate Martian soil using basalt-rich soil mined in the Mojave Desert, called the Mojave Mars Simulant (MMS), developed by scientists at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The teams then grew three types of rice, including one wild type and two transgenic lines with genetic mutations that allow them to respond better to stress, such as drought, lack of sugar or salinity. These cultivars were grown in MMS, as well as a regular pot mix and a hybrid of the two.

While the plants were able to grow in the Mars simulation, they were not as developed as those grown in the potting soil/hybrid mix. Replacing only a quarter of the Mars mimic plant with potting soil resulted in better development.

The team also conducted experiments with the amount of perchlorate in the soil and found that 3 grams per kilogram is the threshold beyond which nothing will grow, while mutant strains can still take root at 1 gram per kilogram.

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Their findings suggest that there may be a way forward for genetically modified rice to find a place in Martian soil.

Next steps will include experimenting with a newer Mars soil simulation called the Mars Global Simulant, as well as other rice strains that have greater tolerance to higher salt concentrations. An important part of the investigation will be to determine the extent of perchlorate leakage into the plant from the soil. Later, the researchers want to get the rice into a sealed habitat chamber and place it in a Mars simulation chamber that simulates the planet’s temperature and atmosphere.

Whether humans ever colonized Mars, the team’s research could have applications here on Earth. The abstract’s second author, Abhilash Ramachandran, a postdoctoral fellow at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, said he spoke with an Australian researcher from an area where the soil was highly saline and saw his work as a potential way to grow food there..

“We can use Earth as a terrestrial counterpart before shipping seeds to Mars,” he added in a statement.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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