Farming in space is another huge idea that researchers are cultivating, in a bid to alter the future of agricultural sciences, which has always been earthbound. These researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska, United States, are prospecting to make corn fields available on Mars, thus making it an epicentre of far less terrestrial forms of agriculture in order to boost crop productivity.
The team members include Profs. Santosh Pitla and Yufeng Ge, who are developing what they titled a Consortium of Space, Policy, Agriculture, Climate, and Extreme Environment, summed up as SPACE². The team’s grand vision according to Agriculture Dive, an international agric infotech newspaper; is to grow the “first acre of corn on Mars’ soil”. According to Ge, the projected breakthrough with the interplanetary agriculture has precedence in “urban farming, vertical farming, any growing system that takes place indoors”, as they all rely on LED technology that came from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA’s studies on artificial illumination, dating back decades.
Since Mars’ soil is rich in heavy metals and majority of plant essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium; this ongoing research is promising in the area of climate change effects; and could provide insights into making agriculture more resilient on extraterrestrial soil conditions. Though still in its planning stage, the researchers also informed that they are consulting with some international stakeholders while also building an autonomous robot, Flex-Ro, that can plant and cultivate independently. In the long term, these researchers hope to lead the country in cutting-edge space research that has far-reaching impacts well beyond the scientific community.