Scientists launched seeds into space to create climate-resistant super varieties

This Article is somewhat different from usual Space systems related articles, but I wanted to write about it as I found this very interesting and intriguing. To aid in the development of new varieties of agricultural plants tolerant to climate change, scientists have sent a batch of seeds toward the International Space Station. This read is also interesting because it explores the use of Space systems in different realms, particularly other than warfare (where space system is always associated with). Who knew that it can be used to aid agricultural practices as well, pretty fascinating isn’t it?

The uncrewed Cygnus cargo ship, which took out from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, is carrying seeds of the nutrient-rich grain sorghum as well as the plant arabidopsis, which is frequently used in genetic tests, on its way to the orbital outpost. The seeds will spend three months outside the International Space Station where they will be subjected to microgravity, cosmic radiation, and extremely cold temperatures. The aim of the project is to cause genetic alterations that might increase the plants’ resistance to changes in climate brought on by climate change. 

Space mutagenesis is a method of breeding new varieties of agricultural plants through off-Earth research that has primarily been applied in China. IAEA has been working on a method known as nuclear mutagenesis for many years, which employs brief bursts of high-energy radiation in ground-based labs to cause analogous alterations in DNA. The space station experiment is the first of its sort for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

IAEA is optimistic that this experiment will result in innovations, findings that can be freely shared with scientists, and novel crops that will assist farmers in coping with climate change and increasing food supplies. When the seeds will be brought back to Earth, researchers will germinate them and raise seedlings, which will then be examined for characteristics that might make them more drought and heat tolerant than their ancestors. The top-performing seeds will next undergo a number of rounds of breeding to enhance desired qualities, such as their capacity to overcome climatic obstacles. IAEA and United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) intend to provide new crop kinds to farmers in developing nations who are most adversely affected by the erratic weather changes that climate change both generates and exacerbates.

Innovative science, such as space breeding of improved crop varieties, can help pave the way to a brighter future of better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life. Millions of vulnerable smallholder food producers across the globe urgently require resilient, high-quality seeds adapted to increasingly difficult growing conditions. The stability of the global food supply will decline in the future, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land. The population will be concentrated in areas that are already struggling with poverty and overpopulation.

The IAEA and FAO are hopeful that the new types from outer space will help “sustain productivity and food quality” in the future. More than 3,400 crop types that were created by FAO and IAEA using nuclear mutagenesis are presently being used by farmers in 70 different countries. The variations between seeds that were sent into space and those that were exposed to stronger but briefer bursts of high-energy radiation in labs on the ground are another area of interest for the researchers.

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