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Author Topic: Questions for extra-terrestrial agriculture  (Read 1539 times)

Offline Amiable Author

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Questions for extra-terrestrial agriculture
« on: 19/04/2011 19:53:46 »
Hi, my apologies if this is not a good place for this question, but I see no obvious evidence that it's not.

I'm writing a sci-fi short story in which a large number of people are stranded on an alien world, and basically I need to know how to make it viable for them to grow food there. Before being stranded they will have the opportunity to ship fertilizers and anything else they need from Earth, so that can be assumed when answering.

What I'm hoping is that an alien soil that is lifeless and non-toxic can potentially be made fertile by the addition of fertilizer and terrestrial biomass - such as the manure of the inhabitants, (am I right in assuming it would be useful and effective to use their feces as fertilizer?) in addition to supplies they bring with them. So first of all I'm asking if anyone can think of any general difficulties for this scenario.

I'd also like to know how much land would be required to feed a population, assuming the most efficient possible crops are used, and what those crops would be. i.e. which vegetables/fruits can feed the most people per land-area, and long-term? When considering this, please also consider which plants are resilient and most likely to grow in an unusual environment. Having said that, the environment will be warm year-round, and there is unlimited access to water. In general, you can assume conditions that are as close to ideal as you're likely to get on a world with no life of its own.

Go ahead and ask more questions if necessary, and thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: 19/04/2011 20:05:00 by Amiable Author »


 

Offline SeanB

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Questions for extra-terrestrial agriculture
« Reply #1 on: 19/04/2011 20:20:50 »
Atmosphere would likely not contain free oxygen, and would have near lethal amounts of CO2, so you would need a dome covering to keep the oxygen you produce in ( green plants do need oxygen as well during the night) and keep the CO2 out. Algae growing in either trays or in ponds would be about the fastest growers, and would grow the fastest given ideal conditions. You would run into problems eating just algae, but you can keep fish in the water to provide protein for the colonists. You can take a rough approximation that one hectare of surface will be needed per colonist to provide food all year around. As you say you have plenty of free water the algae would be a good bet, and if you have a basic biology of different algal strains ( some will be slower growing, but that produce different vitamins you need) along with the requisite microbial cultures to recycle the waste the colonists produce, along with a viable amount of soil to grow crops in rotation, like grasses ( corn and wheat), legumes ( to fix nitrogen in the soil via the bacteria in the roots) that would need hand pollination as you probably would have limited resources to have bee colonies unless you included a lot of flowering plants as well and last some assorted plants to provide variety. you would need the saprophytes to digest the manure into compost as well, so edible mushrooms would be a good bet. You would need a supply ( either brought or mined locally) of trace minerals ( K, P, Mg and a whole lot more of trace minerals as well) to keep the biome healthy.
 

Offline Amiable Author

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Questions for extra-terrestrial agriculture
« Reply #2 on: 19/04/2011 21:54:55 »
I'm not sure what makes you think there would be high levels of CO2, since I haven't said anything about the atmosphere, but other than that that was a very detailed and useful response, thankyou Sean.

I'd still like to hear other people's thoughts, even if it's just to confirm or append what Sean said.
 

Offline RD

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Questions for extra-terrestrial agriculture
« Reply #3 on: 19/04/2011 22:02:55 »
May get some tips from the biosphere-2 experiment , (I don't fancy having to clean the windows).
 

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Questions for extra-terrestrial agriculture
« Reply #3 on: 19/04/2011 22:02:55 »

 

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