A sea of white lotus, grown from space-bred seeds, is blooming under early autumn sunshine in fields of Guangchang County, east China's Jiangxi Province, promising a bumper harvest for local farmers.
Guangchang has sent lotus seeds to the space six times and developed a series of space lotus strains.
"Space breeding has become one of the methods of agricultural breeding that combines techniques of aerospace, biology and agriculture," said Yang Liangbo, head of the white lotus research institute in Guangchang. "Seeds can be nurtured into new strains after they go through genetic mutations in space."
He said the space-bred lotus strains are welcomed by growers as they have higher yield, better quality and longer flowering season, compared with traditional varieties.
Guangchang has developed 110,000 mu (7,333 hectares) of space-bred lotus ponds, yielding 9,000 tonnes of lotus seeds a year.
"The per-mu yield is 50 to 60 kg higher than that of traditional ones," said Zhang Liuhua, a local farmer who has more than 20 years of lotus growing experience.
"Space-bred lotus seeds are in good demand in the market," said Zhang, who has grown over 10 mu of such lotus.
In Guangchang, some 100,000 people are involved in the production of and sales of white lotus. The county has more than 20 companies providing dozens of varieties of lotus products, including lotus leaf tea and lotus seed drink, generating an output value up to 3 billion yuan (about $462.5 million) per year.
Guangchang's space-bred lotus strains have been promoted nationwide with an estimated growing area of 2 million mu (133,333 hectares). The county sells about 80 million lotus seedlings a year.
As China's major space-bred lotus seed production base, Guangchang has also become famous for its two-month long lotus flowering season. Local farmers have cashed in on the beautiful summer scene to develop rural tourism.
Lotus roots are one of the early cultivated crops. In China, every part of a lotus plant, including its flowers, leaves and roots, can be made into either tasty foods or herbal medicines.