The extreme temperature, underground water in the form of ice, lack of magnetic field and constant radiation on the surface makes Mars a lifeless planet.
For settling on this red planet, humans have to cultivate various crops that can sustain life. However, even the greenhouses won’t do enough to protect plants from the deadly radiation of the Martian surface.
Greenhouse domes creates an ideal situation to do agriculture on the Maritan surface, however current greenhouse glass technology is incapable of blocking the deadly gamma radiation that constantly irradiates Mars because gamma radiation levels are about 17 times higher on Mars than on Earth, which are enough to affect crops grown in greenhouses on the surface significantly.
In past, researchers ran an experiment where they planted garden cress and rye and measured the crop output of a group irradiated with Martian levels of gamma radiation with those grown in a “normal” environment with only Earth-level radiation. The crops in the irradiated group ended up as dwarves, with brown leaves, and resulted in a significantly decreased harvest after 28 days of growth. Other worrisome factor is the beta and alpha radiation, which also leads to crop deterioration, though solid objects more easily stop those types of radiation.
New age scientists are suggesting to build underground farms where the planet’s regolith is expected to block most, if not all of that radiation. The obvious disadvantage of such type of cultivation is losing access to the sunlight, but would have the added benefit of cultivation in a much more controllable environment with the help of LEDs and temperature control instruments in compare to the harsh environmental conditions on the surface.
To prove their theory, scientists are now experimenting in a Cold War-era bunker in the Netherlands to see if their same irradiation experiments affect crops grown inside if the irradiation is coming from outside. While not a direct analog for Martian regolith, it’s a novel approach to understanding how humans might eventually farm the sky and make life possible on this difficult planet Mars.