LIAOCHENG, CHINA — About 400 fresh corn grains to be used for scientific research aimed at creating viable new varieties were part of the cargo of China’s Shenzhou XV spacecraft, China’s 10th manned spaceflight, which achieved orbit on Nov. 29, 2022.

According to the Liaocheng municipal government, a corn variety named “Liaoyu 18” was provided by the Liaocheng Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which has specialized in plant breeding since its founding in 1959. 

“The 400 fresh corn grains are of the same breed and weigh about 60 grams and have a rich genetic background and gene types after breeding in the south and the north areas of the country,” said Zhang Guige, director of the Modern Breeding Technology Innovation Center at the Liaocheng Academy.

The main purpose of these space experiments is to break the old genetic chain of the corn and achieve a new DNA recombination by mutagenesis caused by cosmic rays, microgravity and high vacuum in space. 

This is the Liaocheng Academy’s first opportunity to carry out plant breeding experiments conducted in space. Since 2019, the Institute has bred 290 corn inbred lines and 32 new wheat lines through modern biotechnology such as hybridization, radiation mutagenesis and haploid.