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#1 2018-10-26 07:16:45

Big_Al
Member
Registered: 2018-10-23
Posts: 10

Crop production and food variety

The problem of actually growing it may not be that hard. The boredom of eating bland and the same food could lead to stress. In this post I am asking for food ideas but I will be adding crops and possibly livestock.

Some of my proposed food includes: Mushrooms, fish, purslane, potatoes, sweetpotatoes, peas, algae, corn, cucumbers, grain, chicken, carrots, and more.
Meals or parts are: garlic bread, chicken, chicken stew, cooked fish, salad, possibly even breakfast items or on site snacks. Add your own suggestions but now I will discuss agriculture itself.

Agriculture may or may not be a major problem but soil is a little heavy so why not on site? The clay and perchlorates. The bacteria cultures that are taken will eat the perchlorates but what about making soil more fertile? Well nitrogen fixating bacteria, food scraps and sterilized fecal matter, (which may sound unsanitary but on site sterilization is possible) even burning the desceased or burning bamboo ( used for making a chemical similar to kerosene) to enrich the soil. Burning dead colonists sounds somewhat unsettling but it is a viable option. But aquaculture or hydroponics would also be a good idea. Nutrient rich items could be put into the water and drank using activated carbon filters and have fish swim in the water if clean enough. Or the water could be put into a separate tank but switches over water and have algae be produced in the water. That water could be used for the fish. Any suggestions on other crops and/ or agriculture.

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#2 2018-10-26 07:48:32

IanM
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From: Chicago
Registered: 2015-12-14
Posts: 276

Re: Crop production and food variety

Welcome to NewMars Big_Al! I do agree that food variety would be good, but I do believe, as does RobertDyck and I think most everyone here, that the early Mars colonists will be vegan out of necessity. That said, I have done livestock threads for Chicken, Cattle, Swine, and even Insects, while Oldfart1939 has done a thread on Tilapia, and I think that livestock might be viable within a few generations.

As for on-site agriculture, I do think it might be somewhat important both for food and to facilitate Terraformation. However, nitrogen-fixing bacteria would not work since the Nitrogen would still have to come from somewhere. (Although a paper did come out fairly recently about indigenous Nitrates and Phosphates in Martian regolith, so I could be wrong). Fungi are heterotrophs ("consumers" in the food chain) and need existing organic material to live and grow, so aren't as good as plants as a first-generation food source, but can be introduced along with or just before the earliest livestock.

Composting dead colonists (I always did wonder what the funerary practices of Martians would be) is somewhat unsettling but does work and is ultimately what happens to the uncremated dead on Earth anyway, although we'd have to introduce bacteria/fungi to induce decomposition. As for drying and then burning, that could also work for production of electricity and be coupled with cremation, though I guess the colony would have to decide which would be more energetically-favorable case by case.


The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. -Paraphrased from Tsiolkovsky

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#3 2018-10-26 09:16:11

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,744
Website

Re: Crop production and food variety

Welcome. Some of my ideas...
crops

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#4 2018-10-26 12:05:40

Oldfart1939
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Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 2,222

Re: Crop production and food variety

An underlying factor in almost all of the agricultural projects is having a major source of Nitrogen available. Either as an easily converted Martian mineral, or even at last resort, importation of massive quantities of Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer from Earth. A single load on a BFS freighter could bring ~ 100 tonnes. Later on, ~150 Tonnes per flight. The best feature is that once put into agricultural programs, it would be almost infinitely recyclable. All human and animal wastes should be composted for use in agriculture, as well as inedible portions of plants. The use of dead colonists is not an outlandish idea either.

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#5 2018-10-26 13:01:33

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,744
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Re: Crop production and food variety

I gave a presentation at a Mars Society convention about harvesting nitrogen from Mars atmosphere. Robert Zubrin's technique is far more energy efficient, but only harvests CO2. My idea harvests everything else. Once you have diluent gas with a mix of nitrogen, argon, everything in Mars atmosphere except CO2, and even a little CO2 as well, that can be used to dilute O2 for habitat air, or further processed to produce nitrogen gas, ammonia, or the white fertilizer granuals called ammonium nitrate.

This won't produce enough to terraform Mars, but is sufficient for a greenhouse for a Hab or even small town.
http://newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php … 32#p137832

Last edited by RobertDyck (2018-10-26 18:17:55)

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#6 2018-10-26 17:36:19

Oldfart1939
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Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 2,222

Re: Crop production and food variety

I examined the extraction of atmospheric Nitrogen, but the concentration is very low. Therefore energy intensive to "harvest." Anything green containing chlorophyll requires large amounts of the element. The possibility of bringing several hundred tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate would get green things growing, and even grasses used as animal feeds will return it back to the system as manure. Everything consumed eventually turns to shit, and even human feces can be composted with any vegetable wastes to form fertilizer, once the crop cycle is begun. But I agree that if atmospheric gasses are condensed, the Nitrogen should NOT go to waste by allowing it to escape.

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#8 2018-10-27 04:45:23

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,871

Re: Crop production and food variety

Welcome...

This issue has frequently been discussed here.

From all the discussions I have drawn the following conclusions:

1.  With a Space X type mission there will be no problem in providing food variety on the first mission. Fruits, such as apples, and nuts can be preserved beyond the journey to Mars, lasting up to a year at least, and longer in the case of nuts. Same for chocolate or energy bars of varying types. Same for a wide range of beverages. Cereal/grain can be kept for a very long time. Milk can be frozen. Ready meals can come in the form of frozen or vaccuum packed food.  Dried foods can be mixed with water to create meals...as wartime experience showed, you can dry a very wide range of foods including eggs. Also you can keep dried fruits like raisins, dates and dried apricots. It might be desirable as a morale booster to have a small food production facility to produce salad foods, as already happens at Antarctic bases. But the first mission will be focussed on water sourcing and propellant production - so attempting full scale farming woudl be a diversion.

2. Food production is required once your colony population exceeds the ability to import sufficient amounts of food. You then have a choice between artificially lit (no windows0 or naturallly lit food production (domes) or some combination of the two. I favour artificially lit farming for the early stages because you can potentiallly get maybe 10 to 20 times the amount of food production on the same footprint (used tiered trays) and you have none of the potential complications of dome farming.  Food production can take place with hydroponic systems - you don't nee a metre or more of soil.

3.  The focus initially should be on quick growing crops, so that you can maximise food production. Initially the colony will need to import nutrient solution but eventually it can produce its own, using in situ minerals, human faeces, waste vegetation and waste food.

4.  Animal husbandry or fish farming is highly complex and creates a risk of infection, especially in enclosed spaces dependent on life support systems. It is best avoided. If you did have to choose a species to begin with, I would recommend the large guinea pigs raised in South America for human consumption, as they would be very manageable. But I think the emphasis should rather be on creating foods that are very like meats - google on Impossible Burger for information on that.


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

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#9 2018-10-27 04:55:24

elderflower
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Registered: 2016-06-19
Posts: 1,262

Re: Crop production and food variety

Earth bacteria fix nitrogen for plants to use, in a symbiotic relationship. Legumes and clover are probably best known for this, but wheat does it as well. If the buffer gas in a farm atmosphere has a respectable partial pressure of Nitrogen, they will do the same on Mars. Removal of CO and CO2 from the atmospheric mixture leaves about half N2 and half Ar for use as a buffer gas with O2, which I expect will be suitable for this process. Colonists will have to eat a lot of beans!

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#10 2018-10-27 10:33:31

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 23,122

Re: Crop production and food variety

Any left over uneaten or spoiled food can be composted back into the soil to supplement the nitrogen as well as the stocks that are not food....

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#11 2018-10-27 11:15:42

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 2,222

Re: Crop production and food variety

In relationship to any livestock as adjuncts for nitrogen fixation--chickens are extremely efficient in conversion of their feed to meat, but also return the wastes to the soil where they are kept. The scratching and pecking they do enhances the return of their Uric Acid wastes to the soil. Allowing chickens into a garden, but only briefly, accomplishes the task of soil aeration and fertilization pretty well.

On Mars, however, we may be able to have a new beginning with weed and pest free environment. Chickens will generally eat wastes that even swine will not care to eat. Leaves, stalks, roots, etc. as well as spoiled food and uneaten human food.

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#12 2018-10-27 13:24:54

jfenciso
Member
From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 82

Re: Crop production and food variety

For a while, we need to study the physiological response of crop plants in perchlorate. The results will be helpful for the next study by screening a gene which is helpful to make a new breed of plants tolerate in perchlorate-rich soil. Perchlorate-tolerant crop plants could grow in Martian soil and help to scrub the Martian CO2.


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. My major degree is in 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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#13 2018-10-27 14:22:47

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,871

Re: Crop production and food variety

I would suggest that it makes more sense to just manufacture the perfect soil(s) for crop production using ground rock, silica, imported bacteria, food waste and faeces.


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

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#14 2018-10-27 14:44:02

jfenciso
Member
From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 82

Re: Crop production and food variety

It is not feasible to make a factory in Mars or transporting a soil material in Mars. All we need to do is to utilize what you have inside the Martian colony. smile


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. My major degree is in 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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#15 2018-10-27 16:17:14

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,871

Re: Crop production and food variety

I only mentioned importing bacteria. I was proposing an in situ manufacturing facility.

It is perfectly feasible to import bacteria.

It is also perfectly feasible to set up a factory on Mars.

The first Space X Mars Mission will take 500 tonnes cargo to Mars.  If that sort of figure is taken to Mars every 2 years, you will have delivered 2500 tonnes of cargo in 10 years. That would definitely make a soil manufacturing facility a feasible proposition.  The sort of manufacturing facility I am thinking of would I imagine weigh in at something like 100 tonnes.

A Mars soil manufacturing facility doesn't have to be huge. The population is unlikely to get much above 1000 in the first decade and you wouldn't be moving to 100% food production in one go. Food production would build up gradually.

To provide food for 1000 people through soil-based crops would require about 10 million tonnes of soil. 

But that's true whether you use virgin Mars regolith soil or manufacture your soil to Earth specification. Whichever method, it's going to be a huge task.  In fact it's one of the reasons why I think hydroponic farming might make a lot more sense.


jfenciso wrote:

It is not feasible to make a factory in Mars or transporting a soil material in Mars. All we need to do is to utilize what you have inside the Martian colony. smile


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

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#16 2018-10-27 16:21:16

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 23,122

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#17 2018-10-28 00:11:19

jfenciso
Member
From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 82

Re: Crop production and food variety

louis wrote:

But that's true whether you use virgin Mars regolith soil or manufacture your soil to Earth specification. Whichever method, it's going to be a huge task.  In fact it's one of the reasons why I think hydroponic farming might make a lot more sense.


For the first phase of Martian farming, I recommend a hydroponics system. smile


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. My major degree is in 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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#18 2018-10-28 02:29:11

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,744
Website

Re: Crop production and food variety

jfenciso wrote:

For the first phase of Martian farming, I recommend a hydroponics system. smile

And you've stumbled into one of our great debates. We've often discussed that on this forum. Back in the 1970s, when NASA promised the first human mission to Mars would occur in 1981, people believed Mars was as barren as the Moon. How do you grow food without soil? The solution was hydroponics. But starting with Mars Global Surveyor launched in November 1996, published results in 1999, we learned Mars does have dirt. It doesn't have organic material so technically it's not soil. However, you can't call it regolith either. Again, after Mariner missions when scientists saw craters on Mars, they assumed it has the same surface material as the Moon. Apollo brought back samples from the Moon. The Moon is pulverized igneous rock, pounded over billions of years by meteorites and micrometeoroids. However, Mars has clay, and various sedimentary and metamorphic minerals. That's not regolith, it's dirt. The correct technical term is "dirt".

The problem with hydroponics is nutrient solutions. On Earth you can go to a store and buy bottles of nutrient solution without thinking about the industrial infrastructure needed to make them. But on Mars you have to make everything. Industrial infrastructure to make nutrient solutions for hydroponics requires massive infrastructure. A much simpler solution is to grow vegetables in soil. That means processing Mars dirt to make soil. Let plants extract nutrients from soil themselves.

Potassium for nutrient solution comes from mined potash; where on Mars are you going to mine potash? Nitrogen can come from nitrate, but we haven't found any nitrate on Mars. Geologists keep looking using orbiters, landers, and rovers, but still haven't found any. The only nitrogen available on Mars is the atmosphere. I found a video showing how to make hydroponic nutrient solution at home; it's made from reverse osmosis filtered water, commercial fertilizer, and Epsom salts. The specific fertilizer named is this. It contains Nitrogen as both nitrate and "ammoniacal", phosphate, potash, magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc. Epsom salts are magnesium sulphate. So where are you going to mine all this?

Treating Mars dirt to produce arable soil for a greenhouse, is easier than you might think. It starts by soaking in water to release superoxides and break down perchlorates. To enhance breakdown of perchlorates, use carbonic acid aka soda. That's just CO2 dissolved in water. Easy method: pressurize Mars atmosphere in a bottle with pure water, leave it for at least an hour, preferably a few hours. That will dissolve CO2 into water creating soda. Soaking soil with that will produce an acid/alkali reaction. Mars dirt doesn't have any nitrogen (we've looked). You can extract nitrogen from Mars atmosphere to produce ammonia, or react ammonia with nitrogen oxide to produce ammonium nitrate granules, or just provide nitrogen in air of the greenhouse and grow nitrogen fixing crops. Legumes (beans, peas, alfalfa, clover, etc) have a bacterium that grows in their roots which fix nitrogen for them. Beans and peas need some nitrogen in the soil, growing crops that can start with nothing could be a slow process.

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#19 2018-10-28 04:51:43

jfenciso
Member
From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 82

Re: Crop production and food variety

RobertDyck wrote:
jfenciso wrote:

For the first phase of Martian farming, I recommend a hydroponics system. smile

The problem with hydroponics is nutrient solutions.

Talking about a nutrient solution, it is not reliable to bring a nutrient solution to space. What to bring in Mars are 2-3 years supply of different types of mineral salt. This mineral salts will be used to make a nutrient solution like Hoagland's nutrient solution for hydroponics. You can prepare a nutrient solution on Mars. Preparing a nutrient solution is based on millimolar. Future Martian settlers assigned in hydroponics system must learn how to prepare this kind of solution. Second, settlers will know how to manage the amount of nutrient solution for the specific crops by diluting the full-strength nutrient solution into half-strength or quarter-strength. Just to save a nutrient solution. Plus, supplemented with the specific wavelength and photon flux density of light by using LED, to improve the growth. Third, what I worry was if you will use a Martian soil for planting without deep study about the physicochemical properties. It is dangerous for the settlers because of the presence of radiation. Once we used Martian soil with the presence of radiation, the plants will affect its growth and harm the human once they eat a crop exposed in Martian soil with radiation.

I am looking for an update about the planned space probe to Mars which will be used to study the deep surface of Mars. smile

P.S.: To make an organic soil, human manure mixed with compost of dead plant materials is recommended. Addition of earthworm in compost will help to speed up the decomposition and help to increase the microflora of composts and humic acid content. To fix atmospheric nitrogen, you can plant leguminous crops in organic soil you make to increase the nitrate and ammonium in soil, amended with Rhizobium sp. to enhance the nodulation and nitrogen fixation. There is no Rhizobium sp. in space. So, we need to bring a pure culture of the said bacteria for inoculation.

Last edited by jfenciso (2018-10-28 05:10:46)


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. My major degree is in 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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#20 2018-10-28 16:42:51

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,871

Re: Crop production and food variety

I don't think there is a distinction between soil and regolith. Soil is one type of regolith.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regolith


Does nutrient solution require "massive industrial infrastructure" if your population is 1000 and you are producing 50% of your food? 

The amount of food being produced would be just over 250 tonnes per (Earth) annum.

I'm  guessing (feel free to correct me) something like 10% nutrient solution or 25 tonnes to produce 250 tonnes of food.

That's a manageable number.

Seems like there is nitrogen to be had on Mars:

https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/mars-nitrogen


RobertDyck wrote:
jfenciso wrote:

For the first phase of Martian farming, I recommend a hydroponics system. smile

And you've stumbled into one of our great debates. We've often discussed that on this forum. Back in the 1970s, when NASA promised the first human mission to Mars would occur in 1981, people believed Mars was as barren as the Moon. How do you grow food without soil? The solution was hydroponics. But starting with Mars Global Surveyor launched in November 1996, published results in 1999, we learned Mars does have dirt. It doesn't have organic material so technically it's not soil. However, you can't call it regolith either. Again, after Mariner missions when scientists saw craters on Mars, they assumed it has the same surface material as the Moon. Apollo brought back samples from the Moon. The Moon is pulverized igneous rock, pounded over billions of years by meteorites and micrometeoroids. However, Mars has clay, and various sedimentary and metamorphic minerals. That's not regolith, it's dirt. The correct technical term is "dirt".

The problem with hydroponics is nutrient solutions. On Earth you can go to a store and buy bottles of nutrient solution without thinking about the industrial infrastructure needed to make them. But on Mars you have to make everything. Industrial infrastructure to make nutrient solutions for hydroponics requires massive infrastructure. A much simpler solution is to grow vegetables in soil. That means processing Mars dirt to make soil. Let plants extract nutrients from soil themselves.

Potassium for nutrient solution comes from mined potash; where on Mars are you going to mine potash? Nitrogen can come from nitrate, but we haven't found any nitrate on Mars. Geologists keep looking using orbiters, landers, and rovers, but still haven't found any. The only nitrogen available on Mars is the atmosphere. I found a video showing how to make hydroponic nutrient solution at home; it's made from reverse osmosis filtered water, commercial fertilizer, and Epsom salts. The specific fertilizer named is this. It contains Nitrogen as both nitrate and "ammoniacal", phosphate, potash, magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc. Epsom salts are magnesium sulphate. So where are you going to mine all this?

Treating Mars dirt to produce arable soil for a greenhouse, is easier than you might think. It starts by soaking in water to release superoxides and break down perchlorates. To enhance breakdown of perchlorates, use carbonic acid aka soda. That's just CO2 dissolved in water. Easy method: pressurize Mars atmosphere in a bottle with pure water, leave it for at least an hour, preferably a few hours. That will dissolve CO2 into water creating soda. Soaking soil with that will produce an acid/alkali reaction. Mars dirt doesn't have any nitrogen (we've looked). You can extract nitrogen from Mars atmosphere to produce ammonia, or react ammonia with nitrogen oxide to produce ammonium nitrate granules, or just provide nitrogen in air of the greenhouse and grow nitrogen fixing crops. Legumes (beans, peas, alfalfa, clover, etc) have a bacterium that grows in their roots which fix nitrogen for them. Beans and peas need some nitrogen in the soil, growing crops that can start with nothing could be a slow process.


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

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#21 2018-10-28 19:57:47

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 23,122

Re: Crop production and food variety

Soil is an earth term which is laden with organic materials, while regolith is a term which was first associated with the moon which has none....

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#22 2018-10-29 04:23:23

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,871

Re: Crop production and food variety

But all the current definitions I've seen include soil as part of regolith, and in any case we don't yet know if the Mars regolith contains soil. It might well do.

SpaceNut wrote:

Soil is an earth term which is laden with organic materials, while regolith is a term which was first associated with the moon which has none....


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

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#23 2018-10-29 04:47:11

jfenciso
Member
From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 82

Re: Crop production and food variety

For clarification

"Soil vs. Regolith"

According to the textbook of Brady entitled "The Nature and Properties of Soils" (Holy Bible of Soil Science big_smile)

Regolith defines as unconsolidated material overlying rocks.

Soil defines as the upper and biochemically weathered portion of the regolith.


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. My major degree is in 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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#24 2018-10-29 14:34:37

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,871

Re: Crop production and food variety

Where's the quote from this learned tome?

Here's the Merriam Webster definition:

"unconsolidated residual or transported material that overlies the solid rock on the earth, moon, or a planet" - that clearly includes soil.

And here is the Encyclopedia Britannica definition:

"Regolith, a region of loose unconsolidated rock and dust that sits atop a layer of bedrock. On Earth, regolith also includes soil, which is a biologically active medium and a key component in plant growth. "


jfenciso wrote:

For clarification

"Soil vs. Regolith"

According to the textbook of Brady entitled "The Nature and Properties of Soils" (Holy Bible of Soil Science big_smile)

Regolith defines as unconsolidated material overlying rocks.

Soil defines as the upper and biochemically weathered portion of the regolith.

Last edited by louis (2018-10-29 14:40:55)


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

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#25 2018-10-29 23:01:14

jfenciso
Member
From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 82

Re: Crop production and food variety

Terminologies in dictionary define generally which explain in layman's term. I prefer textbook written by the expert in the discipline. smile
Brady is a known soil scientist in the world, and he made a several edition of the book for update. big_smile


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna. My major degree is in 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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