Asia, India, China, Middle East, Breeding, Research, Seed, Studies/Reports, Varieties

Spuds in space: China’s pioneering mission to harness cosmic qualities for superior potatoes

In a groundbreaking initiative, scientists in China have embarked on the next frontier of agriculture by commencing the selection and cultivation of over 60,000 potato seeds that spent five months in space. These seeds, which returned to Earth aboard the Shenzhou XVI space mission on Oct 31, are now under the care of the Shangdu Potato Technology Innovation Center in Inner Mongolia, according to a news story by Yuan Hui and Zhao Ruixue for China Daily.

Zhang Linhai, the director of the innovation center, explained that the cultivation process involves rigorous testing in the laboratory, greenhouse, and field. The germination process will begin in a greenhouse under optimal conditions, followed by nurturing in pots until tubers develop. Subsequently, selected plants will undergo further evaluation in the field, focusing on traits such as yield and disease resistance.

Researchers at the center will utilize CRISPR, a precise gene-editing technology, to selectively modify the DNA of the potatoes and enhance traits such as disease resistance and salt-alkali tolerance. Hu Baigeng, director of the National Engineering Research Center for Potato, emphasized the potential of the space environment to induce genetic mutations, leading to desirable traits like early maturity, high quality, high yield, and disease resistance.

China’s longstanding history of space breeding experiments, dating back to 1987, has successfully cultivated various space crops, including rice, wheat, and tomatoes.

Source: China Daily. Read the full story here
Cover image: Potato seeds that were taken to space in 2022 are cultured at the potato innovation center in Shangdu, Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Credit Jia Peng/China Daily

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