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#1 2007-04-08 21:38:12

X
Member
From: Alabama
Registered: 2007-02-02
Posts: 134

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Fertilizer?  Crop rotation?  Allowing fields to lie fallow?  Something else?

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#2 2007-04-09 07:51:16

C M Edwards
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From: Lake Charles LA USA
Registered: 2002-04-29
Posts: 1,011

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Fertilizer?  Crop rotation?  Allowing fields to lie fallow?  Something else?

Hydroponics.

Soil agriculture requires every technique you mentioned, and then some.  Hydroponics does not.


"We go big, or we don't go."  - GCNRevenger

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#3 2007-04-09 21:54:21

X
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From: Alabama
Registered: 2007-02-02
Posts: 134

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Would hydroponics be practical on a large scale?

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#4 2007-04-10 17:23:47

Grypd
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From: Scotland, Europe
Registered: 2004-06-07
Posts: 1,847

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Hydroponics is already used in large projects and it is though expensive to set up easier to run. Another issue and one of more immediate concerns is that sunlight on Mars is a fraction of what is recieved here on Earth, and so unless we have plants specially adapted for this enviroment we will have to provide artificial light and that is a real energy hog.


Chan eil mi aig a bheil ùidh ann an gleidheadh an status quo; Tha mi airson cur às e.

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#5 2007-04-14 03:01:38

maxie
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From: Europe
Registered: 2005-02-15
Posts: 84

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Well, Mars gets 43% of the absolute solar energy Earth gets, if my calculations are correct.

I have a planted aquarium with only 3 fluorescent lamps, that's around 1/10 or less of what they receive in the wild. But they're doing fine, they grow well, even if a bit slower. Of course, there are plants that need a bit more light and I can't keep those.

The idea is that most plants we cultivate for food today will do just fine with these low light levels. There are exceptions, of course, for example wheat, which needs a lot of sunlight and heat to mature.

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#6 2007-06-18 16:11:20

Ancalagon
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From: San Diego, California
Registered: 2006-12-07
Posts: 35
Website

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

In research for a science-fiction graphic novella series I am co-producing, we uncovered a relatively unknown method of preserving the nutrients in soil. Supposedly, mixing a certain amount of charcoal into the soil and allowing it to set for a few seasons allows a piece of land to to retain its nutrients for centuries of farming. The method has it's roots in the Amazon rainforests and further research (and study) would be required to determine if it does, in fact, last that long. But it would definitely help a Mars colony if it did.


Artist for Red Oasis

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#7 2007-06-20 22:11:55

samy
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From: Turku, Finland
Registered: 2006-01-25
Posts: 180
Website

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Slash and burn agriculture?

Been practiced a lot historically here in Finland.

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#8 2007-06-28 19:05:05

Ancalagon
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From: San Diego, California
Registered: 2006-12-07
Posts: 35
Website

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

No, this is called Terra Preta

In a test crop using this method, the first season had little effect. But the second season showed an 800% increase in yield. This site outlines some tests in using Terra Preta to revitalize over-farmed soil.


Artist for Red Oasis

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#9 2007-06-28 20:21:06

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 14,795

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Low bush blueberry fields are treated in this manner in order to keep the crops growing in large berry producing amounts.

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#10 2007-07-16 18:33:14

dryson
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From: Ohio
Registered: 2007-06-16
Posts: 104

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

If the lanscape on Mars is like our dessert , perhaps this soil coul be made into Martiian glass, one of the main ingrediant's in the glass making process is sand or silicate. This process when  tried on Mars, perhaps may shed some result not seen on Earth. This would be due to the fact that the silicate would be Martian and how the UV rays from the sun would interact with the glass could create better crops or even new types of crops.

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#11 2007-08-06 13:05:47

Ancalagon
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From: San Diego, California
Registered: 2006-12-07
Posts: 35
Website

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

As addressed in another thread, Mars soil is possibly toxic and corrosive to organic material. In that case, simple fertilization won't do the trick. That thread addresses some methods of removing it from people, enclosed areas, and equipment, but what about removing it from the soil? Any ideas?


Artist for Red Oasis

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#12 2007-08-06 19:08:42

noosfractal
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From: Biosphere 1
Registered: 2005-10-04
Posts: 824
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Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

The acid is pretty easy to neutralize (managing soil pH is a major agricultural activity here on Earth), but the heavy metals are harder.  For bulk soil processing, two promising methods are electroremediation (wet the soil and run a current through it - the heavy metals migrate to the cathodes) and phytoremediation (plants that suck up and store heavy metals - there has been talk of using this as a mining method).   Today grasses are used for phytoremediation, but it may be possible to develop microbes.
 
See also ...

Building soil
http://www.newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5466

Building Soil with Salt Marshes
http://www.newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5474


Fan of Red Oasis

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#13 2007-09-26 16:25:18

dryson
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From: Ohio
Registered: 2007-06-16
Posts: 104

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Perhaps a more cost efficent way would be to build habitats that use only hydroponics to grow the neccessary food supply. The cost's involved with neutralizing the possible toxic soil of Mars would be better spent on the hydroponics idea.

Now comes the second part: The waste material of the plant, the stems, stalk's and leaves would be used as a natural fertilizer that when the process of decomposition occures will create gases that could help in creating an ozone layer.

The deck of the facility would be Martian soil with the decomposing plants laid on top of the Martian soil. Perhaps the microbials invovled with the decomposition process would affect the Ph level of the Martian soil, rendering the soil fertile.

Underneath each module they would be a irrigation system where the water from the polar caps would be pumped to each location.

Each module would have an add-on type design where more compost would be deposited. Hopefully this would start to create a "creeping affect"
where the organisms would continue to spread out over the surface.

Once the decomposition gas levels got to a certain level, the gases would then be released into the Martian atmosphere thus possibly creating an ozone layer through which the sun's UV rays would intereact with the ozone trapping the gases thus creating an atmosphere.

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#14 2007-10-30 13:17:48

Dragoneye
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From: Romeoville, IL
Registered: 2005-08-17
Posts: 100

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

I have to agree with the rest that hydroponics is our best bet for over there... but i also have to agree that we can and should use their sandy surface to produce structures there on the planet (better would be under the surface)

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#15 2008-03-28 18:47:08

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,536

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Energy is the one thing we will have plenty of on Mars (on a per capita basis).

So hydroponics is definitely the way to go in the early stages.

I think there may however be an argument for moving some production to soil in due course. In the early stages nutrient solution will be used but this has to be shipped into Mars.  If we want to expand agriculture we will probably want to move away from importing nutrient solutions and develop ISRU as far as possible.

Whilst we can theoretically start making nutrient solution on Mars, it may be easier - just a lot less time and labour intensive - to make soil, rather than nutrient solutions.

But artificial light will be required at all times.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#16 2008-04-05 07:09:16

idiom
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From: New Zealand
Registered: 2004-04-21
Posts: 312

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Ground Plants in RainForests receive very little light, so they have thin leaves with rough surfaces that are much more efficient at collecting light than canopy plants.

Also on Mars everything gets to bathe in CO2. Plants basically need large amounts of Water and C02. If they need more light then mylar mirrors can reflect the evening and morning sunlight into the green house greatly increasing insolation surface area.


Come on to the Future

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#17 2015-11-26 10:55:33

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 14,795

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Another soil versus hydroponics topic....

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#18 2015-11-26 19:53:18

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,536

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Underground farming with artificial light is I think appropriate for first stage colonisation.  We won't have the human or mechanical resources to build large farm habs and there will in any case be plenty of other things to do.  It makes sense to go underground and use the abundant energy from PV panels or nuclear reactors to illuminate crops that can be grown on several levels within say an 8 foot high facility.

From my reading, I think fertilisers can be made from Mars ISRU minerals, human (or animal) faeces, food waste and some imported chemicals. Probably 95% plus by weight.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#19 2015-11-26 20:05:16

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 14,795

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

The current ISS plant grow chamber with its LED lights lend to low energy needs while the protected location means year round control. All that is needed is the square footage requirement to be fleshed out as to whether its a supplemental to life support or only food.
The materials topic also applies here as its a liner that does not need to have coatings for UV, or pressure resistance and allows for moisture control as well as temperature....

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#20 2015-11-27 13:45:41

Void
Member
Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 2,881

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

O.K. I hope you are not put off by my presence.  That can make sense to me, as a starter.

It seems to me that you want to fly a match to Mars and light a fire, not fly to Mars and make a match to light a fire.

What about flying a premade unite into a lava tube that has been completely scouted out.

http://www.space.com/18519-mars-caves-l … hotos.html
mars-skylight.jpg?1353102866
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=lav … &FORM=IGRE
th?&id=OIP.M0e09fcf19831f8f1c211c67a6507a17co0&w=300&h=300&c=0&pid=1.9&rs=0&p=0]

IMG_2560.jpeg

th?id=OIP.M53a7e65b3878082f980e69a040f6bb3fo0&pid=15.1

lava-tube.jpg

It will be heavy, and will have to hover, and drop into the hole and get under a rooftop and set down.  But then it will be radiation sheltered, and thermally sheltered as well.  And in this case, if it is nuclear, you don't have to be as equator dependent.  Also, you don't have to bury the thing, so that's less work to start with.

So the robotic thing flies into the cave, and a transponder allows it to communicate back it's health.  If it is good, your people land, and have an instant in situ robot that helps them grow food, and extract Oxygen from the atmosphere, maybe makes rocket fuel.  And then that leaves the people to do science, and get more water as a first task.

If there were ice deposits in the tube great, or maybe there will be ground ice nearby, or maybe water from soil.

Now I will just continue.  My next preferred move if the lava tube had lots of room would be to see if CO and O2 can be harvested directly from the atmosphere efficiently.  If so then you can run fuel cells from that, and import such fuel cells from Earth at first.  Those fuel cells would have the diodes directly tied into them, so that you could put the light emitting units into new "Gardens" you would build primarily from native materials.

If you cannot get the gasses from the atmosphere directly, then perhaps you make some type of solar equipment which can.  In any case you pipe a fuel and a Oxidizer to the fuel cells with LED's.   The piping could be made of some type of low grade iron, and perhaps plastics, as your start of building materials.

From there you might try to get to the point where you can deal with some kind of transparent greenhouse glaze to promote gardens.

By the way diluted urine is a good fertilizer to start with.

Just a proposal.  Do you have something else in mind?

Last edited by Void (2015-11-27 14:18:38)


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#21 2015-11-27 18:20:42

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,536

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

"It seems to me that you want to fly a match to Mars and light a fire, not fly to Mars and make a match to light a fire."  This is an interesting way of putting it.  My own view is it depends on the task. Essentially you look for the solution that involves least importation of mass and least effort/energy use on Mars by first colonists (but there is a trade off between the two, no doubt). So sometimes it does make sense to make the match on Mars.

As for lava tubes, I have never been a fan.  How can you "scout" these tubes prior to humans landing?  All might be quiet for 10 years and then - as we know can happen on Mars - you get a flash flood or the tube fills up with dust from a dust storm, or there's a roof collapse.

It is much safer in my view to land a habitat on an open area of (slightly elevated) flat ground.  Then make your home in the regolith (trench and Roman brick arch as the roof with plenty of soil cover).


Void wrote:

O.K. I hope you are not put off by my presence.  That can make sense to me, as a starter.

It seems to me that you want to fly a match to Mars and light a fire, not fly to Mars and make a match to light a fire.

What about flying a premade unite into a lava tube that has been completely scouted out.

http://www.space.com/18519-mars-caves-l … hotos.html
http://i.space.com/images/i/000/023/738 … 1353102866
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=lav … &FORM=IGRE
http://tse1.mm.bing.net/th?&id=OIP.M0e0 … &rs=0&p=0]

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/field … _2560.jpeg

http://tse1.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.M53a7 … 0&pid=15.1

http://magickcanoe.com/history/lava-tube.jpg

It will be heavy, and will have to hover, and drop into the hole and get under a rooftop and set down.  But then it will be radiation sheltered, and thermally sheltered as well.  And in this case, if it is nuclear, you don't have to be as equator dependent.  Also, you don't have to bury the thing, so that's less work to start with.

So the robotic thing flies into the cave, and a transponder allows it to communicate back it's health.  If it is good, your people land, and have an instant in situ robot that helps them grow food, and extract Oxygen from the atmosphere, maybe makes rocket fuel.  And then that leaves the people to do science, and get more water as a first task.

If there were ice deposits in the tube great, or maybe there will be ground ice nearby, or maybe water from soil.

Now I will just continue.  My next preferred move if the lava tube had lots of room would be to see if CO and O2 can be harvested directly from the atmosphere efficiently.  If so then you can run fuel cells from that, and import such fuel cells from Earth at first.  Those fuel cells would have the diodes directly tied into them, so that you could put the light emitting units into new "Gardens" you would build primarily from native materials.

If you cannot get the gasses from the atmosphere directly, then perhaps you make some type of solar equipment which can.  In any case you pipe a fuel and a Oxidizer to the fuel cells with LED's.   The piping could be made of some type of low grade iron, and perhaps plastics, as your start of building materials.

From there you might try to get to the point where you can deal with some kind of transparent greenhouse glaze to promote gardens.

By the way diluted urine is a good fertilizer to start with.

Just a proposal.  Do you have something else in mind?


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#22 2015-11-28 09:32:24

Void
Member
Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 2,881

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

I am very comfortable with your post Louis smile

So, perhaps you are Zubrinesque?

"It seems to me that you want to fly a match to Mars and light a fire, not fly to Mars and make a match to light a fire."  This is an interesting way of putting it.  My own view is it depends on the task. Essentially you look for the solution that involves least importation of mass and least effort/energy use on Mars by first colonists (but there is a trade off between the two, no doubt). So sometimes it does make sense to make the match on Mars.

As for lava tubes, I have never been a fan.  How can you "scout" these tubes prior to humans landing?  All might be quiet for 10 years and then - as we know can happen on Mars - you get a flash flood or the tube fills up with dust from a dust storm, or there's a roof collapse.

It is much safer in my view to land a habitat on an open area of (slightly elevated) flat ground.  Then make your home in the regolith (trench and Roman brick arch as the roof with plenty of soil cover).

I would like to work "under" this structured provision, apparently having good credentials, provided by strong minds in the past.  At least to see just how much it can do.

What do you think of this heritage reference for bricks?  Do you have better ones?
http://resources.yesican-science.ca/sts … ding2.html

How will we build structures on Mars when we finally land on the Red Planet?

In the late 1980's an engineer named Bruce MacKenzie analyzed this problem in some detail. He came to the conclusion that the optimum material for building the first large structures on Mars is brick!

Of course we can't easily send much brick to Mars so it will have to be made from the native Martian soil.

This low-tech concept may seem somewhat surprising at first, but there's actually quite a lot of merit to the proposal. Making brick is quite simple and it is for exactly this reason that some of Earth's first cities were built of brick.




Mesa Verde, Colorado
Transparency Master
To manufacture brick:
1.take finely ground soil
2.wet it
3.put it in a mold under mild compression
4.dry it
5.and then (optional) bake it.
For example, adobe bricks which may be "sun-baked" produce a surprisingly good quality brick.

High temperatures are not really required - in many parts of the world sun-baked bricks are still used. Although an oven temperature of 300oC would make some pretty good bricks, a 900oC kiln temperature would be needed to make first-rate bricks. This temperature could be reproduced on Mars using a solar reflector furnace.
Since we won't have taken a lot of extra water with us on our trip to Mars, we can recover almost all of the water we use in the making of our bricks during the drying process - if our oven is constructed correctly.

On Mars, excellent raw material for brick manufacture is available nearly everywhere in the form of finely ground, iron-rich clay-like dust that covers most of the surface.

I can see the values offered, open spaces as you appear to suggest leaves freedom to select special mineral resources nearby, perhaps your hematite.  The dust (You specify regolith), is stated as being nearly everywhere.

Am I far off track?
As for minerals, maybe there will be an ideal place to get a variety: (Not necessarily this one)
http://news.discovery.com/space/mars-ro … 151115.htm

Many of the veins contain rich deposits of calcium sulfate. Others are laced with magnesium sulfate or fluorine. Levels of iron vary.

Then finally the Perchlorate water would be nice to have:
http://www.raynedrops.com/water-news/wa … -to-drink/
Or cleaning it up with bacteria:
http://archives.microbeworld.org/news/a … magic.aspx

I have blabbed sideways a bit here as usual, but I really am interested in hearing more about your thinking pathway.  You seem to understand a lot.  For instance I was not aware that there apparently are small ice crystals in the Martian soil, which is something you had mentioned elsewhere.

Last edited by Void (2015-11-28 10:03:38)


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#23 2015-11-28 18:35:40

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 14,795

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

The question of brick structure comes back to what is the mass of the unit to manufacture the bricks, how much equipment is needed to grind up the regolith to be the supplies for the brick, and then the energy needed to make the equipment work plus its mass for landing at the initial base.
I would say the easiest to build is to make use of mother natures caves and other such openings in order to maximize the least amount of mass and energy needs for making the habitable space for a greenhouse or for crew.
A cave will require an airlock at the mouth of the cave to seal in the livable atmosphere and to keep the place clean. The liner that I meantioned makes it a sealed area for man and food in post19.
As for the fertilizer question we will only need to starilize the waste before composting it into the garden. Lest we forget anything not eaten and the plant waste from crop harvesting can also go into the compost as well.

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#24 2018-10-27 14:29:55

jfenciso
Member
From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 58

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

To increase the soil fertility in Mars in a feasible way, I recommend human manure as a source of nutrients, planting legumes for increasing nitrates in soil, and inoculation of 'Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria" (or PGPR) to enhance the growth and yield performance of crop plants.

Last edited by jfenciso (2018-10-27 14:30:31)


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student in University of the Philippines Los Banos, Laguna. My major is Botany (specializing in Plant Physiology), and minor in Agronomy. My research interests are Phytoremediation, Plant-Microbe Interaction, Plant Nutrition, and Plant Stress Physiology.

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#25 2018-10-27 17:00:42

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 14,795

Re: What would be the best method of maintaining fertile fields?

Processing the human waste is the trick and mars excess UV and cold temperatures can work to our advantage in this. Sterilizing the waste of bacteria that we would not want to cultivate....

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