Outer Space is a realm of endless possibilities and tapping into one such possibility, China has harvested the first batch of ‘space rice.’ Being termed as ‘Rice From Heaven’ on social media, this rice has been grown from seeds exposed to cosmic radiation and a zero-gravity environment for 23 days.
In November 2020, China sent 40 grams of rice on Chang’e-5 lunar probe to the moon. After it completed the round trip, the seeds were taken into the lab of the Space Breeding Research Centre of the South China Agricultural University, Guangdong Province. According to researchers, the “space seeds” that are now 1 cm long will produce new and high-yielding rice varieties.
Such experimentation is not new. China has been sending seeds of a variety of crops such as cotton and tomatoes for lunar voyages since 1987. China has the largest population in the entire world. Hence, this research is aimed at safeguarding food security and boosting the country’s grain harvest. According to a Bloomberg report, more than 200 varieties of crops have been sent to space. About 2.4 million hectares of land has been allotted to growing these “space crops,” the report mentioned.
Under the influence of cosmic rays and microgravity, researchers expect these crops to have a changed genetic structure. This will also lead to further scope in the area of interaction between earthly elements and outer space. Furthermore, it will also help the researchers decipher an efficient way to develop a self-recycling ecosystem in space. According to a Global Times report, Wang Ya’nan, chief-editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said, “With long-term stays at the space station and such researches, it will facilitate multiple deep-space explorations including a human-crewed mission to Mars.”
The Deputy Director at the Space Breeding Research Centre, Guo Tao, told Global Times, “This particular breed being harvested from the seeds from Space is yet to be launched in the markets for the general public. It will take another three to four years before it happens. So further research will continue uninterrupted.”
The seeds have been separated into three different parcels and will undergo multiple tests before being declared edible.