China has harvested its first batch of ‘space rice’ with seeds that were exposed to zero gravity and cosmic radiation after travelling around the moon. According to state-run media CCTV, 40 grams of rice seeds had traveled 23 days in space and made a round trip to the moon on Chang’e-5 lunar probe in November 2020. Returning from their lunar voyage, these ‘space rice’ seeds were harvested at the space breeding research centre of the South China Agricultural University in Guangdong province to help improve China’s grain harvest.
After harvesting the first batch, the remaining seeds have been segregated into three parcels. The seeds which are said to be 1 centimeter long will soon be bred in laboratories and then will be planted in fields. Guo Tao, deputy director at the research center stated told Global Times that the seeds will offer new varieties of rice that will help boost China’s breeding industry efficiency.
2.4 million hectares approved for ‘space crops’
It is important to mention that China has been taking seeds of various crops and produce for lunar voyages since 1987. According to Bloomberg more than 200 Space plant varieties, including cotton and tomatoes, have been approved for planting in the 2.4 million hectares earmarked for space crops in China. The researchers believe that seeds exposed to cosmic radiation can yield higher produce when planted back on Earth.
The space rice that has traveled the moon is being welcomed in China as ‘rice from heaven’, a term that has been coined by netizens on Chinese social media. As per Global Times, the latest ‘space rice’ harvested by China could take another three to four years before entering the markets.
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