* Being a major agricultural country, China is transforming its agriculture with the help of its space undertakings to enhance productivity and increase farmers' income.
* More than 100,000 agricultural machines have been installed with the BDS automatic driving system, covering agricultural production processes such as deep plowing, rice transplanting, sowing, plant protection, harvesting, straw treatment, and drying.
* Over 240 main grain varieties and over 400 vegetable, fruit, grass, and flower varieties have won final approvals for mass planting following more than 3,000 space breeding experiments.
The importance and benefits of space science and technology are highlighted once again as China celebrates the Space Day of China on Monday.
Over 400 activities, such as exhibitions, science popularization lectures, space knowledge competitions, and relevant seminars, are held nationwide.
At the launch event of the Space Day of China in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, the China National Space Administration and the Chinese Academy of Sciences released a series of global images of Mars obtained during China's first Mars exploration mission.
A launch ceremony of the Space Day of China is held in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, April 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Huang Bohan)
"The global images of Mars will provide a better quality base map for Mars exploration and scientific research," said Zhang Rongqiao, the chief designer of China's first Mars exploration mission. "It is an important contribution that Tianwen-1 has made to human deep space exploration," he added.
Technologies and products inspired by space achievements have been applied in various fields nationwide. Being a major agricultural country, China is transforming its agriculture with the help of its space undertakings to enhance productivity and increase farmers' income.
On a recent day, Chen Ping, a farmer in Susong County, Anhui Province, fed his crayfish using a drone. While farmers typically feed their crayfish manually on a boat, Chen skillfully flew his drone about five meters above the water, evenly spreading the food.
This aerial photo taken on April 19, 2022 shows a drone taking off to spread crayfish fodder at a farm in Susong County, east China's Anhui Province. (Photo by Li Long/Xinhua)
"The drone is connected to the homegrown BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), allowing it to fly automatically based on preset routes," said the 45-year-old. He added that using a drone not only saves time but also improves the utilization of the feed.
With the help of another person to load the feed onto the drone, Chen can finish feeding 100 mu (about 6.67 hectares) of water area in just one hour, which would require four people to complete using traditional methods in the same amount of time.
Susong, adjacent to the Yangtze River, boasts over 11,300 hectares of crayfish farms. The most time-consuming and arduous work of crayfish farming is daily feeding. Fortunately, drones have become a popular tool in large-scale crayfish farms in the county, significantly easing the burden of farmers.
Since its official launch in 2020, the BDS has been operating continuously, steadily, and reliably, providing powerful satellite navigation services.
More than 100,000 agricultural machines have been installed with the BDS automatic driving system, covering agricultural production processes such as deep plowing, rice transplanting, sowing, plant protection, harvesting, straw treatment, and drying, according to the China Satellite Navigation Office.
Towed by a driverless tractor, a hill-drop planter moves forward and spreads corn seeds at a fixed spacing. As it gets warmer, Luo Junjie, a 31-year-old farmer in Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is leading his team of 15 busy farmers.
A precision seeding machine equipped with an autopilot system based on the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System is at work in a cotton field in Makit County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 2, 2023. (Xinhua/Ding Lei)
They mainly plant corn and wheat on about 533 hectares of farmland and have 13 sets of agricultural machinery. Equipped with the BDS, the team's tractors and drones can operate automatically according to pre-planned routes.
China has also launched several satellites for remote sensing, providing high-resolution images of crop growth, soil moisture levels, and other data to monitor pests and diseases and predict crop yields.
China's space achievements have also played a role in producing better seeds. Through launching and retrieving an increasing number of spacecraft, China has successfully bred a variety of seeds, including grains, fruits, and vegetables, contributing to the nation's food security.
In 2013, the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of Fuyang City, Anhui Province, sent 100 grams of a self-developed wheat variety into space. After several rounds of field screening, the academy finally identified an excellent strain, which later won approval for mass planting in 2021.
"Compared with previous varieties, the new one grows more uniformly, has larger ears of wheat and shorter stalks, and is more resistant to strong winds," said Li Fuhua, Party chief of Yezhai Village of Fuyang City.
Last year, the village planted the new variety on 266 hectares of farmland for the first time. The planting acreage of the new variety totaled 26,600 hectares in the autumn of 2022, covering the provinces of Anhui, Henan, and Jiangsu, said Feng Jiachun with the academy.
Over 240 main grain varieties and over 400 vegetable, fruit, grass, and flower varieties have won final approvals for mass planting following more than 3,000 space breeding experiments. They have created direct economic benefits of over 360 billion yuan (about 52.3 billion U.S. dollars) and an annual grain output increase of about 2.6 billion kg, according to an ongoing exhibition in Beijing on achievements of China's manned space program over the last 30 years.
This undated combo photo shows images of rice samples at different stages in the life ecology experiment cabinet of China's Wentian lab module, with figures at the upper right corner of each image marking the number of days since the experiment started. (Xinhua)
"With the completion of China's space station and the regular launch of Shenzhou series of spaceships, we can carry out more plant cultivation, propagation, and breeding experiments in the country's space station," said Guo Rui, a space breeding scientist with the Space Science and Technology Center (Hefei).
This will promote the sustainable development of space breeding and thus attract more scientists, breeding experts, and companies to participate in it, said Guo.
(Reporting by Liu Fangqiang, He Xiyue, Li Baojie, Yang Chunxue, Liu Xin; Video reporters: He Xiyue, Huang Bohan, Luan Ruohui, Zhao Jinzheng; Video editors: Lin Lin, Zhang Li, Luo Hui)-