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erisi236
2005-Feb-22, 05:53 PM
If I had my hands on Martian soil, could I grow anything in it, or is it unsuitable for growing anything?

01101001
2005-Feb-22, 06:17 PM
If I had my hands on Martian soil, could I grow anything in it, or is it unsuitable for growing anything?
That Meridiani Planum soil seems pretty high in salts, like magnesium sulfate, Epsom salt -- the Columbia Hills, too. Maybe some earth plant could tolerate salinity that high. I don't know. Copious watering would help flush it away. I haven't seen anything about martian soil that can't be fixed to make it usable. Plants are pretty flexible about soil requirements, as hydroponics shows.

Swift
2005-Feb-22, 07:19 PM
Certain acid loving plants, like tomatoes, seem to have a high tolerance for some salts and even do well in high acid, high iron soils. I suspect things like wheat would do badly.

A big problem would be lack of organic materials - by Earth standards it would be like crushed rock, not "soil". Better bring your own compost. :wink:

Nicolas
2005-Feb-22, 07:26 PM
Certain acid loving plants, like tomatoes, seem to have a high tolerance for some salts and even do well in high acid, high iron soils. I suspect things like wheat would do badly.

A big problem would be lack of organic materials - by Earth standards it would be like crushed rock, not "soil". Better bring your own compost. :wink:

Wheat wouldn't grow good there? But with what are we going to bribe the Russians then to keep quiet about the Mars hoax?? 8-[ 8-[ :D :lol:

cyswxman
2005-Feb-22, 07:44 PM
Certain acid loving plants, like tomatoes, seem to have a high tolerance for some salts and even do well in high acid, high iron soils. I suspect things like wheat would do badly.

A big problem would be lack of organic materials - by Earth standards it would be like crushed rock, not "soil". Better bring your own compost. :wink:
I'm sure the weeds in my backyard would grow just fine.

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Feb-22, 11:52 PM
We'd have to start at the bottom. Lichens, then mosses, then grasses, etc.

frogesque
2005-Feb-23, 11:29 AM
If you took Martian regolith that was as salt free as possible you could grow plants and vegetables using a system of hydroponics (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/greenhouse/hydroponics/soilless.html).

I would speculate that if you were on Mars you could compress the atmosphere by at least 100 times and contain it sufficiently to prevent escape. You would also have to provide adequate UV protection, heating (waste heat from compressors ?) and nutrients (human bio waste - effective but a bit risky). Seeds of course would have to be transported from Earth. Once you get a system up and running it should be possible to compost all surplus vegetation, roots etc. after harvesting and recycle the nutrients. Soil improvers such as legumes (peas, beans etc.) to fix nitrogen would be a valuable asset as well as providing protien and vitamins. For bulk food, potatoes would be more efficient than wheat which requires high acreage/tonne. I think the diet would be pretty mundane but sustainable.

Mars' atmosphere contains a high proportion of CO2 and would presumably be a good environment to grow plants although lack of N2 would be a problem unless suitable ground minerals can be found to suplement. Vegetation would help to provide O2 which would be a useful addition to supplies presumably obtained by hydrolysis of water.

The way I would see it working would be a special UV protected greenhouse, probably tripple glazed argon filled units, able to be pressurised (outer skin of Kevlar type netting?) and having solar panels fitted externally to provide essential electricity and shading. A geodesic dome would be the obvious shape (requires only two types of panel, pentagonal and hexagonal) though you might also be able to construct a cycloidal shaped dome to get greater gound surface area for the same center hight.

Interesting engineering problem.

Edit: Of course, if you had a nuclear powerstation on Mars, power and surplus heat wouldn't be a problem but that's a totally different compost heap