St. Peter students cultivate plants using soil with origins from ‘out of this world’

After cultivating plants using soil with “out of this world” origins, St, Peter High School students may have helped discover a future of farming off planet E
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 6:07 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - After cultivating plants using soil with “out of this world” origins, St, Peter High School students may have helped discover the future of farming off planet Earth.

St. Peter High School recently was awarded an “out of this world” grant from the Institute of Competition Sciences, under the program “Plant the Moon.”

Getting as close as they can to actual moon dust, the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium awarded the school Moon Simulant. This medium gets as close as they can to broken down bedrock directly from the moon, without using the genuine article.

As Freshman student Kila Yost explained, actual moon dust could be potentially hazardous, thus the safety precations.

“Because it’s very toxic and like if you breathe in it can be very harmful to you,” cautioned Yost.

The students have the task of raising crops in a moon setting.

“Using every aspect of their actual growth media -- their goal is to grow produce; someday thinking that scientists or astronauts or other scientists in the industry when we want to grow crops in harsh environments,” explained Agricultural Education Instructor Gena Lilienthal. “What can we add or what can we do to make sure that we’re able to create a food product? So if they had long space missions and they needed to support their own food source, what would they do? And what could they do?

The students at St. Peter High School grow plants with others around the nation.

“And then we also went in and watched some of the videos from other students across the nation and what they’re doing for their experiments,” added Lilienthal.

Watching videos of other students around the nation helps cultivate inspiration, as St. Peter freshman, Mackenna Holtz, explains it.

“We take our ideas and they think of more ways to improve on that and think more on it,” said Holtz.

They’re mixing items like wool, tea, and fertilizer to see how well the plants grow. Yost said wool seems to be problematic.

“It’s not working as well because they hold too much water,” said Yost. “So, it’s drowning the plant.”

Even though they’re not working with -actual- moon dust, the students are still excited.

“I was like, ‘mom we’re doing something with moon dust,’ like that,” Holtz recalled. “‘We’re gonna go there; gonna possibly look at for, like, the moon actually.’ and she’s like, ‘that’s really cool’ and she just thought it was really cool that I actually took this class.”

For Lilienthal, the joy comes from discussing food systems with her students,

“I think it’s important that our students get excited about learning about where food comes from,” said Lilienthal. “Whether that’s food that’s being raised here in our greenhouse, or whether that’s food that astronauts are going to eat in space,”