The researchers also found that the holes that worms dig in the soil aerate the mixture and improve the soil’s structure, making it easier for water to penetrate the soil and nourish plants.
The appearance of baby worms seems to indicate that at least in the short term, the worms are thriving in these closed ecosystems.
The goal of the experiment is to find out how well worms break down old waste to produce food for bacteria and plants in the mixture of soil simulant and pig slurry (or manure). Various flowering plants were allowed to germinate in several pots of this mix, and adult worms were then added.
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to continue experiments on these hardy worms. “Worms for Mars” has already raised more than half their funding goal of €10K, and with the public’s help, Wageningen University and Research hopes to continue testing out different crops along with their crawling assistants.There is is the possibility that sharp edges in non-Earth soil could damage the guts of the critters, the researchers said in another statement.
When worms eat organic matter, they also eat the soil. Since there isn’t much weathering of Martian terrain, sharp edges in its soil do not get worn down (the way they do on Earth) and may cause worms harm, according to the statement. The presence of heavy metals in Martian soil could also be a long-term problem for worms, which would require lengthier experiments to address properly, the researchers said.