Researchers from China Agricultural University tested five species of bacteria and found three of them more than doubled the amount of phosphorus content within a period of 10 to 21 days.
In the next phase of the study, the researchers grew a model plant, commonly used in bioresearch, in simulated lunar soil treated with the three species of bacteria for 18 days. They observed that the plants had longer stems and roots after six days of growth, and heavier and wider clusters of leaves after 24 days of growth, compared with those grown without the bacteria. Besides, levels of chlorophyll, the pigment for harvesting energy from light, in plants with these live bacteria were about double those grown without bacteria in the simulant in another 24-day experiment, which confirmed the important role that these bacteria could play in making lunar soil more fertile.
Lead researcher Sun Zhencai said using bacteria to improve lunar soil fertility would help create lunar greenhouses effectively, so that astronauts can make use of lunar resources to sustain life, instead of lugging huge amounts of soil or the entire cultivation system from Earth.
It is believed that most of the crops grown on Earth can be grown in future lunar greenhouses. Scientists will eventually find ways to use different microbes to transform the lunar soil into states suitable for different plants to grow, providing humans on the moon with a rich variety of plant-derived food.