What do we know about the space agriculture that China is developing?

China considers space farming as a necessity to deal with the climate crisis and overpopulation on the planet.

In September 2021, NASA released a statement claiming to have found it A solution to the isolation of astronauts. So they can have a routine that gives them daily motivation, space agency implemented a program exotic gardening.

The idea was not only to ensure astronauts could grow their own food in space, but Create space for them to take care of their mental health. Almost a year later, China is going one step further: in the development of space agriculture, the country is promoting Growing mutant vegetables outside the stratosphere. This is how it works.

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Luyuan 502: More resistant and productive seeds

At first glance, the seeds that China is building for space farming are not far from those here on Earth. In contrast, a non-specialized eye I can easily confuse them. However, as documented before BBCagricultural fields extending to Northeast China They are not ordinary plants, they were created in outer space«.

Known as Luyuan 502, this variety was developed by CAAS’ Institute of Crop Science and Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The scientists involved in the study reproduced the seeds using a technique known asspace-induced mutationAccording to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In addition to producing 11% more natural seeds, this variety is More tolerant of drought and disease The main challenges facing crops. So far, according to the deputy director general of the institute, Luxiang Liu, 3.6 million hectares have been cultivated. This area is comparable to the surface of SwitzerlandAnd it became the second most widely cultivated type of wheat in China.

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340 km from the earth’s surface

Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Space farming is not new to China. On the contrary, as the International Atomic Energy Agency has documented, the country has “released more than 1000 kinds of mutant crops in the past sixty years. On the contrary, account for 25% of the seeds Currently included in the database of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

These seeds are part of China’s space farming program, and Developed 340 km from the Earth’s surface. In a low-gravity environment and without the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field, they had to endure Tight security checks for human consumption.

On a planet less suitable for life

The adverse conditions in which the seeds were produced Cause a genetic change. This is how they become more tolerant of water shortages, allowing them to Grow faster and better in harsh environments. In this regard, journalist Teresa Poltarova Highlights The importance of these qualities in times of climate crisis:

“In a world facing increasing pressures on agriculture from climate change and fragile supply chains, underscoring the need to grow crops close to where they are eaten, […] Spatial reproduction, also known as spatial mutagenesis, can help to adapt crops to these new challenges.”

before 2050

Images by Li Xihua / VCG / Getty Images

In this context, China believes that Space farming is a contemporary necessity. Specifically, in diversifying and improving the genetic complex of its agricultural crops. Before 2050, Liu says, “the world should increase its production of vital grains by 70%.” More so if we plan Feeding two billion people that will inhabit the Earth by then.

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According to his team in the region The Asia-Pacific region is most at risk of food insecurity. With this pressure, China has introduced 800 new types of mutant crops, improving «All the main features compared to the original crops‘, according to him International Atomic Energy Agency.

With all of the above, space farming isn’t just a containment measure for astronauts’ mental health. On the contrary, it is a way to anticipate a future that will reach us – and perhaps We are not quite ready.

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