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Scientists Identify Biotech Techniques to Improve Space Agriculture

Scientists Identify Biotech Techniques to Improve Space Agriculture

The Whole-Body Edible and Elite Plant (WBEEP) strategy was proposed by Chinese scientists for space crop improvement and help establish efficient space farming that is essential for humans to survive in space. The strategy involves several plant biotechnology techniques that include biofortification, increased yield, and enhancement of nutrient use by the plant.

WBEEP relies on plant biotechnology to develop crops with more edible parts, richer nutrient content, higher yields and higher mineral nutrient use efficiencies to enhance space farm production and management. The scientists initially proposed the strategy using the potato because of its simple horticultural and food processing requirements as well as its ability to develop normally during space flight. The crop can also be easily reproduced asexually.

The scientists made the following recommendations:

  • Introduction of solanine metabolism genes from the tomato to the potato to reduce solanine accumulation in the aerial parts (stems, leaves, berries) of the potato to make the whole plant edible.
  • Overexpression, relocation or mutation of bottleneck enzymes, silencing of undesired pathways, regulation of transcription factors and other techniques proven effective to develop biofortified crops for the improvement of the potato's synthesis of vitamins and functional secondary metabolites.
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