Beijing: China harvested its first batch of “space rice” from seeds that returned from a lunar voyage last year, with scientists hoping it could help create new plant varieties and safeguard the country’s food security.
The crop was grown from the 40 grams of seeds that travelled with the Chang’e-5 lunar probe in November, state television reported. More tests and plantings are needed to determine the best varieties that could be promoted nationwide to help improve China’s grain harvest.
China’s ramped up its focus on food security and supply in the past year, boosting imports and urging greater self-sufficiency in staple crops to feed its population of 1.4 billion. The seed sector is a pillar of this push, with the government approving a plan on Friday to make seed sourcing a matter of strategic security and vowing support for research and agriculture projects.
The country has been taking seeds of rice and other crops to space since 1987. More than 200 space plant varieties including cotton and tomatoes have been approved for planting. In 2018, the total plantation area for space crops approved in China reached more than 2.4 million hectares, according to state media.
After being exposed to cosmic radiation and zero gravity, some seeds can mutate and produce higher yields when planted back on Earth. It may take three to four years before space rice enters the market, Global Times said, citing an official at the space breeding research centre.