, Beijing, February 7th (Liu Huan) In 2022, Arabidopsis and rice seeds will successfully germinate and grow seedlings in the Wentian Experimental Module of the Chinese Space Station.

A few months later, these experimental products that had undergone 120 days of cultivation and growth in space returned to Earth together with the crew of Shenzhou 14.

  From ordinary land to desert saline land, from the extremely cold Antarctic to the Chinese space station, why are the Chinese so obsessed with growing vegetables?

Data map: The picture shows the combination of the Tianhe core module of the Chinese space station and the Long March 5B Yao-2 launch vehicle in transit in April 2021.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Luo Yunfei

From ancient times to the present, how did the magical skill of growing vegetables come from?

  "Why are Chinese obsessed with growing vegetables? Why are we obsessed with eating vegetables?" Shi Jun, a doctor of botany from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, once asked the audience in a speech.

  He then answered that, first of all, because vegetables are one of the important sources of vitamins and dietary fiber, vitamin C, β-carotene and many minerals can be obtained from vegetables.

Secondly, in terms of cooked food Traditionally, Chinese people like to cook food, especially raw meat, which may destroy the vitamins in meat, so they need to be replenished through vegetables.

  Another important factor for the formation of the Chinese tradition of growing vegetables is the ancient way of life and production - small peasant economy and emphasizing agriculture and suppressing business.

"Under the conditions of productivity at that time, people had to produce and sell the food they needed. They could grow vegetables in the vegetable garden, and then surround this small vegetable garden to obtain nutrition all year round." Shi Jun said.

  He told that compared with meat and other foods, vegetables are easier to obtain and easier to store than fruits. Later, vegetables that are easy to store such as Chinese cabbage appeared. The combination of factors formed the Chinese people's love for vegetables. tradition of.

  "In addition, when wars and extreme weather occurred frequently in ancient China, people could not obtain enough staple food, so they could eat vegetables to supplement their body needs." Shi Jun said.

  So, we see that in the countryside, balconies, plastic bottles, greenhouses, deserts, and saline-alkali land, there will never be a shortage of Chinese people dumping fruits and vegetables.

Some people say that deep in the soul of every Chinese, there is a yearning for growing vegetables.

  And this magical skill has also attracted the envy of foreign friends.

  Antarctica is one of the harshest places on earth, but Chinese researchers have developed soilless vegetable cultivation bases in this environment. They ate fresh vegetables such as cabbage, green peppers, and tomatoes. Many foreign scientific expedition team members also Attracted by the rich food, I often come to Cengfan.

Data map: The picture shows researchers observing the growth of soybeans that have traveled in space for more than 3 months in 2022.

Photo by Hu Zongren

What is it like to grow vegetables in space?

  After years of development in my country's manned spaceflight industry, astronauts can start to stay in space for a long time, and the position of growing vegetables has also begun to expand to the Chinese space station.

  In 2016, Tiangong-2 was launched.

In orbit for more than two years, researchers and astronauts have carried out numerous space science and application experiments.

  Zheng Huiqiong, a researcher at the Molecular Plant Excellence Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, previously introduced to the media that higher plants are a key factor in the spatial ecological life protection system.

How to use plants to produce food and vegetables in space to meet the needs of human long-term space life is one of the key scientific problems that must be solved in manned spaceflight.

  Shi Jun said that one of the difficulties encountered by plants growing in space is that the gravity environment is different from that of the earth.

"We live on the ground, and gravity is commonplace. But in the microgravity environment of space, without the guidance of gravity, how do the roots, stems and leaves of plants grow? What are the changes in genes, molecules, etc.? These are what we study important topic."

  In 2016, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft was launched, and astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong brought lettuce seeds to the Tiangong-2 space laboratory.

  Here, the astronauts first need to install the cultivation device, and some of the specially treated seeds have been put into the cells of the white box before going to the sky.

  On the ground, we tend to sow first and then water, but in space the order is reversed.

This is because the white cells brought into space by astronauts are hard materials, and the seeds can only be put in after absorbing water and softening, so they are watered first and then sown.

  After sowing, the astronauts will spread a layer of plastic wrap in the cultivation device to protect the plants and prevent water loss.

  When the seeds germinate successfully, they will remove the protective film and turn on the lights installed on the top of the cultivation device to provide light for the lettuce.

This kind of light is composed of three colors of red, blue and green, mainly reddish.

  During the cultivation process, the astronauts will use a syringe to inject water into the roots of the lettuce. In addition, they need to observe and take pictures of the lettuce every day, and check the moisture content and nutrient content of the substrate.

  Wang Longji, an associate researcher at the Environmental Control and Life Protection Research Office of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center, said that the reason for choosing to cultivate lettuce is that the growth cycle of lettuce is one month, which coincides with the time of this on-orbit mission; moreover, the planting of lettuce on the ground The technology is relatively mature, and it is a relatively common plant, which is conducive to popular science.

  After working in orbit for 30 days, the astronauts brought back 9 green lettuces.

Data map: The picture shows children visiting tomatoes bred in space at the "China Manned Spaceflight Interactive Science Popularization Exhibition" held by the China Science and Technology Museum in 2021.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Tian Yuhao

Growing vegetables in space is related to the future of mankind?

  Lettuce was brought back, Arabidopsis thaliana and rice seeds were also taken up and successfully grown.

On December 5, the third batch of space science experiment samples of the space station, which descended with the return module of the Shenzhou 14 spacecraft, was successfully transported to the Space Application Engineering and Technology Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

  Arabidopsis and rice complete the whole process of development from seed to seed.

This marks the first time in the world that my country has completed the space cultivation experiment of the whole life cycle of rice from seed to seed.

  Shi Jun said that space breeding is an important field of space biological science research. We still have a long way to go to realize large-scale cultivation of crops in a microgravity environment, but the purpose of scientific research is not just for practical application. and industrialization.

  "Many of the research we conduct are not based on actual needs. Many scientific research works seem useless today, but they are very important to the future of mankind, because science can be extended infinitely." He said.

  Zheng Huiqiong has been working in the field of space life science for many years. She once said in an interview with the media: "For now, there is still a lot to be studied. The universe is too big, and it is still too far beyond our current cognition. With a strong desire to know, driven by curiosity, I will definitely go out.” (End)