The Future of Martian Agriculture and Survival

According to the article by Daily Galaxy, the Lichen P. chlorophanum could survive the Martian surface. Therefore terraforming the planet’s surface should be obtainable since lichen is a “pioneer species in primary succession… that colonize bare rock secrete acids that break down the rock and start the soil-production process.” (T, 2014) However ongoing tests to find suitable crops are being researched. The South American rain forests and soil type consist primarily of oxisols; “[a reddish soil] with extremely low native fertility… [Except for] ecosystems… contained in the standing vegetation and decomposing plant material.” (Dr. McDaniel, n.d.) “‘[NASA has] been looking at the very dry soils found in the southern Peruvian desert. These are the most Mars-like soils found on Earth.’ Chris McKay of NASA ARC. CIP potato breeder Walter Amoros… has tapped into [the ability to breed] potato clones that tolerate conditions such as soil salinity and drought…CIP was able to show proof that potatoes could grow in this dry, salty soil with some help from fertilized Earth soil for both nutrition and structure. Future Mars missions that hope to grow potatoes will have to prepare soil with a loose structure and nutrients to allow the tubers to obtain enough air and water to allow it to tuberize.” (Phys.Org, 2017) In addition to soil research, NASA has been researching particular plant genes which may be beneficial in surviving the Martian terrain. This suggests that GM crops may be used in terraforming Mars. “[The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC)] team plans to transform plants with genes for cold tolerance as the next step in their research. They also used their NIAC concept as an educational experience, giving undergraduate students at North Carolina State the challenge of selecting features from existing organisms that would be useful for Martian plants and designing ecosystems for Martian greenhouses. “ (Steigerwald, 2016)

Martian colonizers would have dietary dependence on crops able to withstand the harsh Martian environment… “[The ideal Martian colonist’s] diet utilizes the ten crops chosen; wheat, rice, sweet potato, peanut, soybean, pinto, beetroot, winter squash, banana and papaya because of their success and suitability in the Biosphere 2 experiments. They are hardy, dependable and relatively easy to harvest and process with a minimum of equipment. The ease of processing is an important consideration given the desire to minimize crew time necessary for food production. Supplemented with fruits and vegetables from the vegetable area and horticulture under-storey they can form the basis of a healthy vegetarian diet (Walford, 1992)” (Silverstone, Nelson, Alling, & Allen, 2003)

 

References

Bennet, D. (2016, Janurary 21). Martian potatoes and Chinese GM corn. Retrieved from Delta Farm Press: http://simplelink.library.utoronto.ca/url.cfm/531061

dailygalaxy.com. (2014, Janurary 14). “Photosynthesis is Possible on the Surface of Mars”. Retrieved from Daily Galaxy: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2014/01/photosynthesis-possible-on-the-surface-of-mars.html

Dr. McDaniel, P. (n.d.). The Twelve Soil Orders. Retrieved from University of Idaho: http://www.cals.uidaho.edu/soilorders/oxisols.htm

Phys.Org. (2017, march 8). Indicators show potatoes can grow on Mars. Retrieved from Phys.Org: https://phys.org/news/2017-03-indicators-potatoes-mars.html

Silverstone, S., Nelson, M., Alling, A., & Allen, J. (2003). DEVELOPMENT AND RESEARCH PROGRAM FOR A SOIL-BASED. Adv. Space Res, pp. 69-75.

Steigerwald, B. (2016, May 05). Designer Plants on Mars . Retrieved from NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2005/mars_plants.html

T, M. (2014, July 17). How do lichens contribute to primary succession? Retrieved from socratic.org: https://socratic.org/questions/how-do-lichens-contribute-to-primary-succession-1

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