Chinese researchers have started breeding experiments on 66,500 potato seeds that were taken into space aboard the Shenzhou-16 crewed spaceship and stayed for over 180 days.

After the seed germination, cultivation, and transplantation, superior seed varieties will be selected and further evaluated, said Zhang Linhai, director of the technology innovation center of Xisen Potato Industry Co., Ltd., which is in charge of the task.

Space breeding refers to exposing seeds or strains to cosmic radiation and microgravity in space to mutate their genes so as to create new species or varieties with greater performances like shorter growth periods, higher yield, and better resistance to diseases.

Researchers from the center in Shangdu County in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region plan to breed potato varieties with salt-alkali tolerance and higher yields through experiments that use advanced gene-editing technology to assist traditional genetic breeding.