Lambs in space seeds
A farmer waters rice seedlings in Taizhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province. Photo: VCG
With the return of the crew of China’s spacecraft Shenzhou-13, a total of 12,000 seeds finished their space breeding journey, which is expected to enhance food security, as seeds are as important as chips in the semiconductor industry.
Seeds of clover, oats, rice, edible mushrooms and cabbage were carried by the Shenzhou-13 into space and brought back to Earth on April 16, after 183 days in space.
It has been 35 years since China’s first space seed breeding effort in 1987, and nearly 1,000 new species have been created, of which 200 have displayed outstanding performances, according to media reports.
Space seed breeding uses cosmic radiation to mutate the genes of seeds sent into space, in order to create new species for greater variety.
China’s space seed project has bred lots of vegetable and fruit species, including such common items as apples, Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
China’s space seed breeding has made a great contribution to the country’s food security and environmental protection.
The area under cultivation for grains, vegetables, fruits and other plants developed by space seed breeding has surpassed 2.4 million hectares, and generated economic benefits of over 200 billion yuan ($30.51 billion), media reported.
“Some of the seeds will be used for scientific research and others will be used for breeding,” said Yang Hongshan, an expert at the Lanzhou Institute of Husbandry and Pharmaceutical Science of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Yang said that sending seeds into space is just the first step, and the most essential phase is the experimental work done after the return to Earth. The time for that work varies depending on the species.
“For instance, it takes 10 years to breed a new species of clover, and oats may take seven to eight years,” said Yang.
Clover is one of most important feed materials for livestock which remains a shortcoming for the country’s agricultural sector.
“China has to import 1.3 million to 1.5 million tons of clover each year. Clover seeds from space may accelerate Chinese clover species breeding and ensure the development of this ‘chip’ in agriculture,” said Wang Tao, professor at China Agricultural University.
China’s space seed breeding level also reflects the nation’s advancing aerospace technology, Li noted.
“There are only a few countries in the world with mature aerospace technology, and China’s level of space seed breeding technology is at the world-class level,” Li said.
Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) – 50 Seeds
A favorite for growing with kids, the lamb’s ear plant (Stachys byzantina) is sure to please in nearly any garden setting. This easy-care perennial has velvety soft, wooly evergreen leaves that are silver to gray-green in color. The foliage is also similar in shape to that of a real lamb’s ears, hence its name. If left to bloom in summer, lamb’s ear will produce spikes of pink to purple colored flowers too. In addition to enjoying its attractive, fuzzy foliage, the leaves can be used as a “band-aid” of sorts for healing wounds and in helping painful bee stings.
Besides the sopping up of blood and use as a dressing, lamb’s ear has also been used as a poultice and has analgesic properties. It was used either alone, or to help hold in other herbs like comfrey. It was often used in the aftermath of bee or wasp stings, and reduces the swelling from both.
Grow this hardy perennial flower in full sun to partial shade and in well-drained soil. It is a reliable performer that needs little care. Lamb’s Ear uses include edging the border of the garden or as a general ground cover. It is a ready self-seeder, and also spreads by roots making it ideal for ground cover. Sow Lamb’s Ear seeds in late winter, 8 – 10 weeks before last frost. Use starter trays and quality starter soil. Press Lamb’s Ear seeds into the soil but do not cover. Keep the flower seeds continuously moist until germination. Transplant Lamb’s Ear seedlings outdoors in spring. At the time of transplanting, pinch back to encourage compact growth. Space Lamb’s Ear plants 16 inches a part.
Soil: Moist, well-driained
Soil pH: 5.8 – 7.2
Seed Depth: Surface sow, press into soil, but don’t cover.
Seeds per Plant: 3-4
Water: Keep moist until germination
Light: Required for germination