The return to Earth of seeds sent into space with the aim of developing new crops capable of adapting to climate change is planned for next month, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations announced on Monday. (FAO).
Conducted in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), this groundbreaking experiment aims to develop new techniques to adapt to climate change and strengthen global food security.
With a world population estimated at nearly 10 billion by 2050, there is a clear need for innovative solutions through science and technology aimed at producing more food, as well as more resilient crops and more sustainable farming methods. , underlines the FAO in a press release.
Seeds from the IAEA and FAO laboratories belonging to the Arabidopsis and Sorghum varieties traveled in an uncrewed cargo shuttle from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to space on November 7, 2022. While in the space, they were exposed to the conditions that prevailed inside and outside the International Space Station (ISS), explains the UN organization.
Upon their return, scientists from the Joint FAO/IAEA Center for Space-Induced Nuclear Techniques for Food and Agriculture plan to cultivate the seeds and screen them for useful traits to better understand mutations and identify new varieties.
“I am very proud of our partnership with the IAEA, which has been bearing fruit both on Earth for years, and now with seeds that have traveled through space,” said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, at a meeting in Vienna. “I am in awe of nature’s resilience and excited about the endless benefits space exploration can bring to transforming our agri-food systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable across the world,” he added.
While similar experiments have been conducted since 1946, this is the first time the IAEA and FAO have conducted genomic and biological analyzes on seeds sent into space in about 60 years of experience in inducing plant mutations.
The seeds that traveled through space belong to two species of plants: Arabidopsis, a type of watercress extensively studied by botanists and plant geneticists, and sorghum, which belongs to the millet family and is a pest-tolerant cereal. drought and heat grown in many developing countries for food.
Once grown, a series of analyzes will help understand whether cosmic radiation and harsh space conditions can make crops more resilient to increasingly harsh growing conditions on Earth.