Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., an agricultural technology company, and BGI announced a collaboration to create an extensive rice genetic resource library to advance food crop research and development.

Under the agreement, BGI and Arcadia will combine their resources and capabilities to create, sequence and characterize millions of new gene alleles to advance rice breeding globally. The collaboration will focus on 5,000 proprietary indica-type rice lines, provided by Arcadia, featuring high-density variation within the rice genome. Arcadia has developed non-genetically modified (non-GM) genetic diversity libraries in other major crops such as soybeans, two types of wheat, canola, and vegetable crops.

Rice researchers worldwide will be able to tap directly into this new and extensive set of genetic resources to use in the research and development of higher-yielding rice varieties. All of the varieties are non-GM and can easily be used by rice breeders globally. The project leverages BGI’s world-class genome sequencing capabilities with Arcadia’s proprietary rice genetic assets and high-throughput genetic screening platform.

BGI will determine the genomic DNA sequences for all 5,000 lines and make the assembled and analyzed data freely available online. The China National Gene Bank, being established and operated by BGI, will store the seed and distribute the rice lines in exchange for researchers providing public access to findings using these lines.

Under the collaboration, Arcadia will have the rights to apply the findings from the collaboration to extend and broaden its ongoing programs that increase the yields and the profitability of rice production globally. This work will build on Arcadia’s extensive research in rice, including traits that are in late stages of development for nitrogen use efficiency and salinity tolerance.

“These shared results have the potential to accelerate rice variety development and eventually extend to other key food crops,” said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia. “We are cost-effectively connecting a major global genetics research base with the breeders who can apply that knowledge practically to support global food security in the face of growing populations, limited land resources and the negative effect of climate change on crop yields.”

“As the staple food for China, as well as for nearly half of the world’s population, rice is one of BGI’s most important research priorities,” said Xin Liu, vice director of BGI-Research. “Large-scale discovery of novel alleles for desirable rice phenotypes is critical to understanding genomic diversity and elucidating gene function for development of elite varieties. We also encourage greater efforts to establish a global, public rice genomic database and advance rice improvement. In the future, we hope to dedicate such efforts to other important crops, like millet, soybean, maize and wheat.”

Rice is the world’s most valuable crop, grown on more than 395 million acres globally with a harvest value of $429.3 billion in 2013. The crop plays a critical role in food security for more than half of the world’s population. Arcadia has partnered with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on multiple projects with rice breeders in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Uganda to improve local rice yields.