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Space seeds

China launching seeds into space to develop advanced plant varieties with increased nutrition

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: space seeds, biotechnology, life sciences


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(NewsTarget) Space may be man's final frontier, but it may also be one of the last places people can obtain nutrient-rich foods. China's newest project, the Shijian-8 satellite, could help undo the damage done to the DNA of modern produce through the rampant stripping of soils and poor growing practices among farmers.

According to officials from the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, Shijian-8 will launch from Jiuquan satellite launch center in September. It will carry more than 2,000 varieties of plant seeds, along with fungi and sequenced molecular biomaterials.

During its 15-day journey through space, scientists say Shijian-8's seeds will be exposed to cosmic radiation and microgravity that will mutate the seeds and offer higher, more vitamin-packed yields. Similar experiments have been conducted by Chinese scientists in the past, creating a number of new species that have been grown in recoverable satellites.

Space-bred vegetables from the experiments tend to have a vitamin content that is 281.5 percent higher than ordinary vegetables, along with raised levels of the microelements ferrum, zinc and carotene.

So far, about 566,600 hectares of Chinese land have been planted with space-bred rice and wheat between 2001 and 2004, according to a government official. It has yielded an additional 340,000 tons of grain for the country.

Shijian-8 is a joint venture between the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, which manages the project; the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, which develops the seeds; and the China Aerospace Science Group Company, which designed and built the satellite and studies the space environment used for breeding. China's space program, the third in the world capable of recovering satellites, has launched 22 satellites with just one failure so far.

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