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Poster presented at the 2023 SWOSU Research and Scholarly Activity fair.

Pictured here are students Stevie Langstraat and Rachel Uhlig.

Efficient nutrient cycling is key to plant growth and waste management on Earth, and will certainly be critical for human habitation off of Earth, as colonies on extraterrestrial planets become closer to reality. The NASA-affiliated Plant the Moon competition challenges groups to grow food in simulated mars soil (regolith) in an eight-week period. Ten students at Southwestern Oklahoma State University are examining interactions between microbes, Mars regolith, mammal fecal matter, and growth of food plants. We are growing three species of plants (spinach, lettuce, and basil) in simulated Mars regolith that has been enhanced with soil amendments, including rabbit feces, and to which different microbial treatments have been added. In addition to documenting total plant yield, we are monitoring soil pH, seedling germination rates, and chlorophyll content. In our exploration of the effects of different microbial sources (worm castings, purchased soil bacteria, purchased soil fungi, and rabbit droppings) we expect to see differences in growth both above and below ground. In addition to implications for food and waste management on Mars, the results may be beneficial to organic farmers and home gardeners.


SWOSU Research, Research fair, Microbiology, Astrobiology, Astrobotany, Mars, Regolith