Self-sustaining habitable environments for off-planet travel have been part of scientific research for decades, including a famous large-scale experiment conducted nearly 30 years ago called Biosphere 2 (Earth is Biosphere 1). A flowering plant called Arabidopsis, yeast and fruit fly eggs were also part of the organic experiment.
He said cotton could eventually be used for clothing while the potatoes could be a food source for astronauts and the rapeseed for oil.
The Chang'e-4 lunar probe landed on 3 January and transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the "dark" side of the moon.
Global discussions about sending humans to the Moon and Mars have brought many challenges waiting to be solved, and among them is food supply.
Liu Hanlong, who is leading the experiment, said that the cotton seeds were the first to sprout, in comments to the South China Morning Post.
China's ruling Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily tweeted an image of a sprouted cottonseed with the caption "the completion of humankind's first biological experiment on the Moon".
Chang'e 4 was launched atop a Long March 3B rocket in early December.
Reports from China indicate that the cotton seeds have germinated while the lander is parked on the far side of the moon.
Professor Xie Gengxin, the Chinese scientist in charge of the lunar plant experiment, said if successful, the project would signal that China was catching up in space exploration.
China shared video of the Chang'e 4 landing on the moon this week.
With the far side's lunar night having started, the six living things are frozen at -52 C. They will decompose into organic matter as the temperature rises during the next lunar day and remain inside the can forever.
Finally, the Chang'e-8 mission will test technologies and do "some preliminary exploration for countries to jointly build a lunar research base in the future", Wu said.