Public Release: 

Space agriculture topic of symposium

American Society of Agronomy

October 5, 2016--Scientists have studied the earth's soils for hundreds of years. But not until the first moon exploration have extraterrestrial surfaces been within reach. Soil science could learn much from what is found on the surfaces of other celestial bodies. And, according to a NASA scientist, research is ongoing for possible missions in the 2030s.

The "New frontiers of soil and plant sciences: Astropedology and Space Agriculture" symposium planned at the Resilience Emerging from Scarcity and Abundance ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ, will address this important topic. The symposium will be held Monday, November 7, 2016 at 9:00AM. The meeting is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

According to organizer Hangsheng Lin, Penn State University, "space exploration has created a brand-new window of opportunity for the study of extraterrestrial soils - 'astropedology' - as well as space agriculture. Exciting frontiers abound, which in return can help to enhance terrestrial soil and plant sciences by placing Earth's soils in a broader planetary science context."

Bruce Bugbee, Utah State University, quotes a line from the movie The Martian: "we'll have to science the shit out of this," when referring to growing food on other planets. His talk will analyze the effect of "altered atmospheres and reduced gravity on the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. Planetary environments will alter plant water status and water recycling rates. Altered photosynthetic radiation will change plant metabolic rates and oxygen demand in the root-zone. Rates of microbial nitrogen transformation will be altered."

"NASA is currently planning to send humans to Mars in the mid 2030s," says Douglas Ming, NASA. "Early missions may rely on the use of onsite resources to enable exploration and self-sufficient outposts on Mars. The martian 'soil' and surface environment contain all essential plant growth elements.

For more information about the Resilience Emerging from Scarcity and Abundance 2016 meeting, visit https://www.acsmeetings.org/. Media are invited to attend the conference. Pre-registration by Oct. 26, 2016 is required. Visit https://www.acsmeetings.org/media for registration information. For information about the "New frontiers of soil and plant sciences: Astropedology and Space Agriculture" symposium, visit https://scisoc.confex.com/scisoc/2016am/webprogram/Session16099.html.

To speak with one of the scientists, contact Susan V. Fisk, 608-273-8091, sfisk@sciencesocieties.org to arrange an interview.

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