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Author Topic: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Agricultural Revolution  (Read 144129 times)

NW_Kohaku

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #75 on: February 03, 2011, 10:00:54 pm »

Toady One is, last I heard, philosophically opposed to making magic something which can be manipulated consistently, that is, magic would not be amenable to scientific inquiry. However, if we are going to go into tracking nutrients seriously, then the underground can't function like it does without adding an exotic source of energy, unless we allow for hugely increased activity of chemo-litho-trophic microbes or fantastical equivalent.

I don't suppose you could find me a quote? 

I'd be very interested to know what he has to say on the subject, and on what, specifically, he does or does not want magic to be like.
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The Phoenixian

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #76 on: February 03, 2011, 10:13:17 pm »

Toady One is, last I heard, philosophically opposed to making magic something which can be manipulated consistently, that is, magic would not be amenable to scientific inquiry. However, if we are going to go into tracking nutrients seriously, then the underground can't function like it does without adding an exotic source of energy, unless we allow for hugely increased activity of chemo-litho-trophic microbes or fantastical equivalent.

I don't suppose you could find me a quote? 

I'd be very interested to know what he has to say on the subject, and on what, specifically, he does or does not want magic to be like.
Not sure if this is precisely what you're looking for but there seems to be something of this nature in the DF talk seven about artifacts.

Here's a link: Transcript of DF talk 7. The relevant bits are right at the top.
http://www.bay12games.com/media/df_talk_7_transcript_2.html
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sockless

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #77 on: February 03, 2011, 11:53:27 pm »

So I've been doing a bit of research about soil now because of this thread and I have a couple of questions about features to be included.

Are we going to include some form of cation exchange capability in this model?
Will we be able to do hydroponics?
How would you raise soil pH?

You can make calcium hydroxide from baking limestone in a kiln and mixing it with water. This could be used to lower soil pH and it is also used in tanning.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #78 on: February 03, 2011, 11:55:32 pm »

Hmm... Thank you.  I don't really pay as much attention to the DF Talks since they tend to be more rambling than the more direct ones on the forums.  I tend to miss things because of that. 

I'd quote the whole section, but, well, it's pretty long, and I have enough long posts in this thread already.

It does say that he doesn't want it directly predictable, but also that he's not sure how he wants to do it.  However, that one was from almost an entire year ago, so his ideas may well have been shaped more concretely by now.

Oddly enough, Toady's comments on unpredictable magic mirror my own reasons why I got into some arguments about magic several months ago:  Sufficiently unpredictable wizards (that can cause volcanic eruptions inside your fortress or open the HFS or such) are such a massive catastrophe waiting to happen that there is no sane response other than to chuck a wizard into the magma the instant you see one.

He also talks about magic's sources, though, and that's pretty interesting as an angle.  Something else, though, that really grabs my attention is this quote:

Quote
But it could be the end of the world if having the artifact sword is somehow drawing your fortress closer to some kind of world of fire and then suddenly it like sucks into some kind of fire plane and your whole fortress catches on fire and then everyone wonders why there’s a new volcano.

I think this is the sort of thing that what I am attempting to model actually might be able to do.

What I have been working with and working towards is a model in which "manipulation" and "control" are two separate things.  Nature, in the model I am trying to create, is powerful and resilient enough that you can't just kill it outright, it will always spring back, but it's just that you can't really control the spring back.  Your actions have consequences beyond the immediately obvious, and you can set into motion a chain of events that you might not be prepared for.  (Not that this is much different from "Today, I learned about water pressure when I flooded my fort," but for the timescale.)

Consider if your fortress already has "fire" or "magma" spheres pretty well-represented, and then you go making more fire or magma sphere-generating artifacts, or you perform magma sphere-raising activities.  Especially if your ability to understand the exact levels of the sphere's influence in the area is limited to only being able to look and see the population levels of the xenosynthetic lifeforms in the area, not an "energy map", it could be very subtle when you are slowly getting your fortress towards a firey doom when the ecosystem/xenosystem hits the tipping point, and suddenly dwarves' bodies start getting taken over by fire sprites or something, and start turning into magma men.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #79 on: February 04, 2011, 12:20:41 am »

So I've been doing a bit of research about soil now because of this thread and I have a couple of questions about features to be included.

Are we going to include some form of cation exchange capability in this model?
Will we be able to do hydroponics?
How would you raise soil pH?

You can make calcium hydroxide from baking limestone in a kiln and mixing it with water. This could be used to lower soil pH and it is also used in tanning.

  • ... *sigh* I'm not really sure.  I kind of want to say "no, this is too complex a subject matter already, I don't want to go stuffing even MORE stuff in willy-nilly".  A problem with it is that this sort of thing is fairly hard for the player to really manipulate.  It's something that alters the rates at which other variables become altered, which is playing a really odd Kevin Bacon game with soil that I'm not sure how to really convey to the player in a meaningful way, since we're already playing coy with NPK.  I guess I can do more research on it and give it more thought, though...
  • Theoretically, you could, since I've already talked about having pipes filled with water that have minerals dissolved in the water.  However, I think "hydroponics" the way we think of it is very modern farming that involves very modern understanding of the chemistry of life to get right, and just beyond the time scope of DF.  I do think, however, that there is room for a sort of "kelp-farming" method involving plants that float over shallow water.  I remember seeing somethign on History Channel about one of the Native American civilizations like the Aztecs literally growing their food on a sort of raft in the river.  That's worth looking into.
  • Generally, you don't want to lower soil pH, it's just something that happens when you use certain fertilizers, and you have to stop the tendency to make the soil overly acidified.  Urea applied to the soil will naturally turn the soil acidic, as it's an acid and all, and that's one of your primary nitrogen suppliers.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urea#Agriculture .  You have to treat your urea carefully to prevent over-acidifying the soil. Decaying plant matter also acidifies soil, which is why forests tend to have acidic soil in the first place.



EDIT: OK, I found a decent site that isn't so jargony as to be almost incomprehensible.  http://www.soilminerals.com/Cation_Exchange_Simplified.htm

I guess it's possible to use this, although I'm still not sure how, exactly. 

For one thing, I want to keep this about how nature works in cycles, and how there are multiple forces in equillibrium with one another.  CEC is just kind of a property of the soil.  You can't really change it, it's just "Too bad, your soil is too sandy to grow anything good on.  You should have embarked on clay, sucker!"

I could hypothetically introduce some sort of magic super-soil creating plant that turns sand into silt or even clay, but it's also sort of a one-way trip.  There's no counterveiling force gluing the particles back together. 

It's also something that has a direct impact on several other nutrients, most of which, for the purpose of keeping things to just NPK, aren't even talked about in the rest of this model, like calcium, sodium, and magnesium.  Only Potassium is really big on CEC, and it would act as a sort of "max K value".  Then it messes with acidity, which is already a variable that lies on the outside borders of usefulness.

... I kind of want some sort of soil science professor to come out here and help me with some of this research.  I wonder if I could email one?  Either that, or I might as well just change my major now, and at least get a degree out of this noise.  I've put more research into this than my classes which have projects coming up...
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 01:24:32 am by NW_Kohaku »
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Vince7403

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #80 on: February 04, 2011, 03:13:07 am »

Probably best not to expand into too much complexity. A much simpler solution is that each plant has a list of soil types it can grow in, along with perhaps a value reflecting whether that soil type is sub-par and impedes its growth.

So, crop such-and-such requires, for example: High N, medium P, any K; moderate water; narrow range of acidity; will grow in silt, clay, loam, sandy loam (growth inhibited but possible), but not sandy soil. These sorts of requirements would, except for the exact chemistry, be understood to in-universe farmers and could be displayed on the crop information interface with in-universe terms.

I don't think a tolerable soil variable associated to a crop would impede performance too much, since it's only checked when a seed/sprout/spore first attempts to grow on a site and/or when the type of soil on a plant-occupied tile changes. The latter is unlikely to happen often, though floods could do it. Lava flow would probably do it too, but the plants are unlikely to survive unless they're magical fire-sphere plants that grow in the fire lands and are eaten by the fire elk and fire squirrels and so forth.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #81 on: February 04, 2011, 10:48:35 am »

The problem with "can grow in silt, sandy clay, etc." is that then we no longer have player-created soils from things like flooding stone or muddy caverns.  The soil being worked in the rest of the thread isn't a "soil layer" the way that the game currently handles it, but a floor covering that ignores the wall/solid material below it.

Those base soil types can provide a ground-level set of nutrients, but the point of all this is that players can change these things to suit their needs.  I don't want to just say "sorry, nothing grows on sand."  Or even worse, "nothing grows outside of soil layers".

Furthermore, humus has the best CEC ratings, and humus is made of decayed plant matter.  In other words, it's the stuff made when we leave compost down as fertilizer, something that I'm trying to make (literally) dirt common, which would mean we'd probably need some different variable for modeling how deep the humus is, or some other crazy thing.

The things I'm reading on, drainage and CEC are generally related, and theoretically, I can merge those two together in a manner.  Soil quality also depends in part on the ratio of calcium to magnesium, both minerals we're not modelling, and high enough magnesium leads to fermenting alcohol and formaldehyde in the soil. 

Hypothetically, we could just use some sort of "magic super-lichen" that could break down sands or even gravel in a player-useful timeframe like a couple years at most.  The thing is making the reverse trip...  Hypothetically, this could take place with soil erosion, if we want this to be a fairly static number.  Alternately, we could have some system of continuously adding gravel or sand, which drops this number while maybe adding to other numbers, while letting the soil get worked by plantlife raises it again.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #82 on: February 04, 2011, 02:03:04 pm »

Made a new spin-off thread to farm some ideas for this one: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=76578.0

I'm also a little unsure of where to triage my efforts right now.  I don't want to be unsure of how to handle the final bits on soil and go ahead and finish, since I only have a few more sections to write, and I want to leave the Interface part for last, once I'm certain how I want the entire system to operate.

I guess I could put something in about pollution or livestock, which are just sort of dangling mini-topics to be tied up, but I'm not sure.

I suppose I should just go ahead and write the BotDK thread before it bursts from my skull, but feel uneasy about further splitting my attentions.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 02:11:08 pm by NW_Kohaku »
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monk12

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #83 on: February 04, 2011, 08:43:13 pm »

AAAAHHHH SO MANY WORDS!

Every third paragraph my brain starts going off tangentially to what you're saying, and I sit there and cogitate on it for a few minutes before coming back to find you went in a similar direction I did, or a different direction I wanted to debate you on, or jumped the rails entirely into a new thought that sends me off on another tangent. Or, in short, you make me think too much :P

I'm not even going to touch the whole spheres/magic energy source/make the caverns make sense thing. Or rather, I'll do it at some later date in some other thread. I'll be in and out of this thread as individual bits provoke my brain cells.

Notably, the first tangent I went off on started when you highlighted how the problem is the (relative) lack of scarcity in DF. My thoughts really started rolling after you mentioned that each player wants DF to be different things. You're right- this is a game, and one of the objects of a game is to have a player make conscious decisions about how to most effectively manage their limited resources to achieve their goals. "A series of interesting choices," as I've heard it eloquently phrased. The thing is, in DF most of the goals beyond "survival" are self-imposed by the player, which means after the early stages of the fortress every player is going to be making different choices depending on what they want to do. At this point I stopped thinking about scarcity and optimal actions in regards to farming and applied it to the way we play DF as a whole.

After chewing it over a bit, I ended up breaking the way we play DF into two groups- World Shapers, and Creature Controllers. Creature Controllers are the players who like manipulating and learning about the inhabitants of the fantasy world that has been generated, both as individuals and as larger social units like family and fortresses; learning about their social lives, maximizing their happiness, optimizing their productivity, interacting with other races/civs/sites, playing with the economy and so forth. What the creatures do is the most interesting to them- the fortress itself is just a place to collect these interesting little dudes. World Shapers, on the other hand, manipulate and investigate the world around them; building megaconstructions, doing large mining projects, playing with eccentricities of physics and generally forcing the environment to bow to their needs. The creatures within the world are interesting in the sense they provide a way to measure and interact with the environment, but if a bunch of miners die, what of it? Obviously, many players are between these two extremes, but roll with me for the sake of argument.

Thinking all of these things was a bit of a paradigm shift for me, since it broke up what I had once considered a unique whole into discrete pieces. It also illustrated that everybody does a little bit of each part as part of surviving and making a sustainable fortress, and that tackling all of these hurdles at once creates the learning cliff we all know and love. What happens is that after everybody struggles to do the necessary bits of the other playstyle, they tend to ignore them in favor of spending their most precious resource (time) on things they have the most fun doing. So after feeling enlightened, I evaluated the suggestion itself in these new terms. Improved Farming enhances the World Shaping aspect of the game, since it necessarily involves learning more about the earth itself, life cycles, weather, water manipulation and so forth as you make further and further improvements.

Now what really excited me is the fact that, by your methods, you've made it possible to have very detailed refinements to this aspect of the game, complete with added challenges and a veritable font of new projects, WITHOUT forcing people who play the game differently to figure it out. If you enjoy this part of the game you'll have a blast assuming each successive challenge, and if you don't you can accept having suboptimal farm output provided it meets the minimum needs of the fortress, and you can supplement your food production with trade in order to spend more time focusing on the little dudes themselves.

At this point, I realized what you had actually done was make a way by which being good at one playstyle made you automatically better at other. You are better at the military aspect of the game because your bountiful self-sustaining farms make you able to ignore the depredations of sieges. You can succeed economically and socially because your awesome fields are producing nice things for your dwarves, and you're growing more than other sites because your unique embark makes you more suited for, say, redroot dye than they are.

And of course, THAT thought made me start pondering ways to get the same kind of progressive difficulty curve, since this ties right back into DF being everything for everyone. I could probably ramble on at this point (as if I haven't already, and I've still got nits to pick with what I've said), so I'll just stop, chew it over, and if it merits further discussion I'll go make my own thread.

And that was just tangent #1! I haven't even started thinking about FARMING YET!

I'll pop in later and make some more on-topic posts- I'll just use this space to thank you for giving me something to ponder at work tomorrow.

NW_Kohaku

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #84 on: February 04, 2011, 10:00:43 pm »

AAAAHHHH SO MANY WORDS!

Every third paragraph my brain starts going off tangentially to what you're saying, and I sit there and cogitate on it for a few minutes before coming back to find you went in a similar direction I did, or a different direction I wanted to debate you on, or jumped the rails entirely into a new thought that sends me off on another tangent. Or, in short, you make me think too much :P

Thank you.  I'll take that as a compliment whether it really was or wasn't :P

Quote
After chewing it over a bit, I ended up breaking the way we play DF into two groups- World Shapers, and Creature Controllers.

I kind of see it as three major factions, four if you want to count Adventurer players as separate.  You've got one set who are the Roguelikes, they want the extra brutal world, and love it when their fortress goes down in flames, preferring to mod in even bigger challenges like Fortress Defense.  It's all military all the time.  Then you have the storytellers.  These are the people who enjoy the sort of vicarious living through dwarves, and tend to be the sorts of people who make suggestions for campfires or glass display cases or museums or other creature comforts, plus generally like all the graphics mods that make the world prettier and more accessable.  Basically, they like the game to be more like The Sims.  Then you have the architects.  These are the people who build titanic megaprojects, make residential floorplans that are fractal patterns, and create dwarfputers.  Dwarf Fortress is a physics engine for them, and being more creative and going one further than anyone else, and generally just discovering how to master every system in the game are what give them pleasure.

In one of the previous threads, someone related to me the "Three Magic: The Gathering Players", the three hypothetical players who had to be satisfied by the designers of M:tG with different cards:  Timmy, the kid who loved the really big monsters, and played because he thought summoning big things was fun; Johnny, the guy who played to have creative flair, and enjoyed coming up with the most unusual combinations possible; and Spike, the guy who only played to win, and went for pure bang for the buck potential.  It carries over into DF, as well.  The roguelike players are the Spikes - a bloodbath is all they're there for.  Johnnys love to be architects who shape their world to express themselves.  Timmys love the little colorful things and being surprised by the game. 

Just look at some of the players who only plant one type of crop all the time, every time.  They're only trying to do the bare minimum they can in one field of the game to get to the part they like - warfare.

Of course, very few people are extremes who conform entirely to one of these three camps.  I generally have a bit of a Spike in me for most games, but not DF, while I tend to be somewhat Timmy in this game, oddly.  Mostly, though, I like being Johnny.  I love understanding the concepts behind a game, and find it more fun than the game itself.  It's why I've spent this much time analyzing the hell out of the farming system.

This suggestion... doesn't really do much for the roguelikers, unfortunately.  I can just try to keep out of their way, and not trample on their fun while they wait for the Army Arc to come along.  I can try to put in plantlife that they might find interesting, some things that would make for the alchemistry to make flaming oil or the like, but I'm not sure if they'd even appreciate it, if it took understanding a farming system they didn't want to use in order to get it.  Storytellers get a farming experience that isn't such a chore at the start of the game, yet still rewards depth and experimentation.  It gives the architects something grand to be able to engineer - whole ecosystems they can sculpt in their image!

Quote
At this point, I realized what you had actually done was make a way by which being good at one playstyle made you automatically better at other.

... Wow... Never seen anyone give me this much credit before.  Not really sure how to react.  I should probably resist that one urge in the back of my head to throw a towel around my neck like a cape and laugh maniacly now that my "insidious master plan" has been revealed, though.
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AngleWyrm

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #85 on: February 04, 2011, 10:02:51 pm »

The problem with "can grow in silt, sandy clay, etc." is that then we no longer have player-created soils from things like flooding stone or muddy caverns.
What we have here is two definitions of soil type, and as the variables become the definition of a soil type the categorical definitions such as silt or sandy clay approach conflict. Does silt have a set of values that make it silt? Would any mud that has been modified until it fits within those ranges then be silt by definition? If the values of a patch of sandy clay are modified until it fits the variables that describe loam, then is it still sandy clay?
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #86 on: February 04, 2011, 10:22:38 pm »

The soil types that are in the game now are not just made up names - they describe soil types based upon the grain size of the minerals. 

Non-organic soil starts out as part of mountains.  They get worn down to boulders, then rocks, then sand, then silt, then fine clay.  Sand, silt, and clay are all the same thing - really small rocks - and it doesn't really tell you anything about their material content (with the exception of the different colored sands - black sand is probably mafic basalt or obsidian worn down).

So yes, if you grind down sand to a finer consistency, then, by definition, it does become silt.  Very, very fine silt becomes clay.

Those other soil types, like silty clay or sandy silt are all just soils made of mixtures of different sizes of inorganic soils, and "loam" is a generally even balance of all three sizes. 

The only other types of soil are things like peat, which are organic soil types, and are naturally made up of organic matter.

This is partially why those soil types aren't particularly relevant to the conversation thus far - they have nothing to do with the actual mineral content of the soil.  It's only when you bring up something like drainage or CEC that it starts to matter.  Clay, because it is a much smaller volume, has a greater surface area to mass ratio, meaning its surface can adsorb more minerals like potassium.  Sand, because it has a greater volume, is the opposite.  However, simply having greater capacity to store potassium does not necessarily mean that soil will have potassium.

What's more, different minerals making those soils have different CECs - the black volcanic sands have a greater CEC.

Worse, Humus has the most ideal of all CECs.  It's the organic soil formed by simply letting things die and decompose, which has nothing to do with whether you have sand or clay beneath the soil to begin with.

Ultimately, if there's any soil that I've been talking about modelling thus far, it's the Humus, not the soil layers that form below it - it's what has all the minerals you dump in with fertilizers, and build up with decaying plant material and corpses and manure. 
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Nicolo

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #87 on: February 04, 2011, 11:38:21 pm »

Great thread!

It's started to bug me how the first farmplot I ever laid down in my forts would be the last and as my fortress developed, and as the fortress the biggest challenge I'd have would be the race to build or buy enough barrels to store the food from my one plot.

The problems are like you said,

1) Farmer skill is too overpowered in its current form. DF was clearly designed in the early game, where food shortages could potentially happen because there are not enough competent/skilled farmers balanced with the rest of your population to create food. As ones' population increases through migration, this should become more of a problem. It isn't however, because the field farmers' skills outpace the rest of your fort's ability to consume food instead of the other way around.

2) Land is too efficient. One tile of land, with a skilled enough planter combined with some growers, can feed multiple dwarfs indefinitely. Meanwhile, in the real world even the most undeveloped and technologically backward countries measure their 'economic footprint' in hectares. While that is a bit extreme, I think a middle ground could be found. OP's suggestion of needing multiple food items to satisfy a dwarf's hunger is a great one one. Perhaps a farmed tile could have an integer that increases each time the land is farmed, and decreases each time it is left fallow or fertilized - this number increasing the time it takes for a tile to produce a food item.
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sockless

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #88 on: February 05, 2011, 12:19:22 am »

About the rafts with plants on them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaculture, I stumbled onto that when I was looking at CEC.

As about the soil types, a picture is worth a thousand words.
From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_texture)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

That gives you a nice idea of how soil sizes work and what constitutes what.

I'm assuming that this will have some basic form of salinity too, as that is rather important in real life. But the problem then exists that salt is very hard to get out of soil.

I think that you should read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alkali_soil#Solutions, in respect to soil acidity and solutions to it for basic soil, since no-one has really discussed this.

Hydroponics doesn't necessarily mean that there is only water and a plant, the Wiki article says that you can grow plants in gravel and other substrates using hydroponics, which would be rather interesting, as you wouldn't necessarily have to make soil underground, as you could just crush up some rock and flow cavern water through it.. The first use of hydroponics was in 1st century AD, but wasn't used for hundreds of years until the 1600s, so it is technologically feasible, but it is technologically equivalent to greenhouses and the like.

Hydroponics really just having the nutrients in soil, in water. So you'd have your NPK system, but in water.

<edit>I just looked it up, and you need 90 acres to feed 100 people if you use irrigation and stuff, but that was in like the early days of agriculture.
From another source:
Quote
Each person needs --
vegan food -- 3000 sq. ft. (0.07 acres)
a few eggs/week -- 3,500 sq. ft. (0.08 acres)
one chicken/week -- 24,300 sq. ft. (0.56 acres)
one cow/year -- 67,300 sq. ft. (1.55 acres)
1 acre = 0.4 ha = 4047 m2
« Last Edit: February 05, 2011, 04:21:53 am by sockless »
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Interus

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Re: Improved Farming, Rebooted: Violate the Earth!
« Reply #89 on: February 05, 2011, 01:04:41 am »

Soooo much text.  I want to read it all, I really do, but this is like the third time I came back to this thread, and it's the only time I made any progress.  Granted, reading it from a phone is probably why the first two failed.  I may have to take your advice the next time I try.
 
I want to mention a couple things, but I'm sure somebody else already had and that would make me feel bad, but I also don't want to withhold it.  Mostly I just wanna talk.  You said something about wanting to keep nutrient values roughly the same through the life of a fortress.  Now, the part about nutrients either being released immediately after consumption, or used and eventually released when the dwarf dies or whatever, makes sense.  Any nutrients that are part of the system stay as part of the system.  But it also seems like any nutrients that are brought into the system would stay in it too.  Like, new immigrants, wandering animals, or several goblin sieges.  I'm kinda tired, so maybe some nutrients do disappear from the system naturally, and I just didn't read that part, or read it wrong.  I'd still be worried that the decay might be to much for a new fort, or not enough for one that suddenly finds itself with tons of blocks of goblin-meat compost.  It's just a poorly thought out concern, but it started bugging me as soon as I read that.

Secondly, as a minor point, and I'm almost completely certain that it's been mentioned, the spoiler rocks could probably function as a magic source.  I'm trying to figure out how that would work specifically, but I'm thinking it would basically replace whichever nutrients are most rare in caverns, and certain cave plants would grow better, when closer to one, the other, or both.  So lower caverns have more magical plants(that is, plants that are more magical, not just higher in number) than upper ones, and also more nutrient rich.

This is all poorly thought out, and I apologize.  It's just that, as I mentioned, I'm tired.  Also, the ideas you wrote are pretty exciting, and made me think too.  So far, I'm not actually sure how much I like them, but it's definitely better than the basic "need more time or produce less food" ideas that I've seen in some mods.  Expect me to be back, possibly with better thought out thoughts, once I've done some serious reading.
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