As you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, ponder the future of farming, especially in space...
Earth’s soil is a mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and countless organisms. The Red Planet is covered with crushed volcanic rock containing nothing living. Mars does, however, have carbon dioxide, some nitrogen in the atmosphere, and frozen water. As a first step, Bugbee’s colleague and biochemist Lance Seefeldt will study ways to convert atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia using bacteria and solar energy.
“We will also look at inoculating plants with rhizobia like we do legumes to help them fix nitrogen,” says Bugbee.
Rhizobia is one of the groups of soil bacteria that infect the roots of legumes to form root nodules. After infection, it produces nodules on the roots where they fix nitrogen gas from the atmosphere and produce a more readily useful form of nitrogen.
Nice lecture below from Prof Bugbee