On Earth it seems so simple to grow plants, but on Mars nothing is ever quite as easy. NASA has been studying ways to grow crops efficiently off the Earth, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station have grown, harvested and eaten red romaine lettuce which was completed fully in space. There does however need to be far more research done into growing crops on another planet, particularly for a colony of people. The Colonize Mars mission would include some of the first plants fully grown on a non-earth celestial body and because of that there would be plenty of “on the job learning” - and plenty of unexpected barriers. In addition, any plants which go to Mars may contain dormant problems which become triggered by stresses or new environmental conditions, and on Mars there is plenty which can go wrong and put the crops in a state of stress.
In 2007, a graduate student at the University of Colorado charted Martian light from the sun over a two year period. The study showed that due to being further from the sun, Mars only receives around 43% of the sunlight of Earth, and that’s before the dust storms which can block out sunlight. The regolith making up the Martian surface also lacks biomass and is essentially broken rock, leaving little readily available nutrients to help growing plants…and this is before the additional radiation is taken into account. In addition, hydroponics set ups need to function efficiently to avoid over or under watering of crops, and mechanical failures always being on the cards to cause havoc. These difficult conditions can be overcome, but any plants are likely to have difficulties growing and be more susceptible to illnesses or death when something goes wrong.
The crop blight impacts any ownership cards which produce food, but have no impact on botanists. The subset of cards affected are fairly small, but cold have large impacts on the labor of astronauts if they are unable to be fed correctly.
These hazards inflict 50 points of damage each time they damage an ownership card.