Space breeding involves the production of a new variety of crops by sending seeds into space and exposing the seed to radiation and microgravity in the hope of inducing a mutation. Some preferred mutations for rice production are increased yield, early maturing, and resistance to pests.
Hubei Jinguang Agricultural Technology Co is responsible for cultivating rice sent in this space mission. The seeds were sent to space for three months. Aside from rice, corn and rapeseed were also selected to be sent to space.
The seeds sent back to Earth were evaluated for their mutations. After the selection, they were germinated in the Hainan province by China’s Space Breeding Achievement Transformation Center to produce more seeds.
According to Gao Xuegang, the president of Hubei Jinguang Agricultural Technology Co in Wuhan, even without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the selected rice from space breeding has better quality than ordinary rice in terms of having sweeter fragrance and waxier texture.
Space rice showed high drought resistance and was less affected by pests and diseases than ordinary rice. It is expected to address the issue of drought, pests, and diseases that widely cause significant loss of production in the country. Because of its resiliency and adaptability, space rice can be planted early or late in the planting season.
Space is a unique environment to induce mutation. The conditions in space – high pressure, weightlessness, and high radiation are tough to replicate on Earth. Because of this, space breeding has become a tool for shortening the duration of regular breeding and creating new varieties.
Some of the harvested space rice will be used for further research, and some will be marketed as an exclusive product. It will be available in the market for $27.46 per kilogram.