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China Looks To Space For Super Fruit And Vegetables

Space-bred tomato and green peppers seeds have resulted in harvests between 10 and 20 percent larger than ordinary seeds, while vegetables grown from space-bred seeds have a higher vitamin content.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jul 24, 2006
China intends to launch a satellite aimed at developing super space-enhanced fruit, vegetables and other crops, as it seeks ways to expand the nation's food production, state press said Monday.

The Shijian-8, a recoverable satellite, will be launched aboard a Long March 2C rocket in early September, for a two-week mission that will expose 2,000 seeds to cosmic radiation and micro-gravity, the China Daily reported.

The "seed satellite" will enable scientists to try to cultivate high-yield and high-quality plants, Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration, told the paper.

"Exposed to special environment such as cosmic radiation and micro-gravity, some seeds will mutate to such an extent that they may produce much higher yields and improved quality," the paper said.

Nine categories of seeds, including grains, cash crops and forage plants will be aboard the satellite, it said.

China has been experimenting with space-bred seeds for years, with rice and wheat exposed to the universe resulting in increased yields, the paper said.

Space-bred tomato and green peppers seeds have resulted in harvests between 10 and 20 percent larger than ordinary seeds, while vegetables grown from space-bred seeds have a higher vitamin content, it added.

However the satellite to be launched in September will be the first dedicated specifically for seeds.

China's space seed experiments come as the nation seeks ways to feed its 1.3 billion people amid a rapid decline in farming land due to swift industrialization.

The nation has pursued some forms of genetically modified crops, with GMO tomatoes, soy beans and corn already in production. China is also mulling plans to approve the production of genetically modified rice.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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