Ceres, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company, announced that the company has received approval to initiate field testing of its biotech sugarcane in Brazil, the world’s largest producer of sugarcane.

The company plans to test its biomass and sugar yield and stress tolerance traits in several commercial sugarcane cultivars adapted to Brazil’s major production areas. The field evaluations, which were approved by Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, are expected to begin in the next six weeks. Field evaluations represent a critical stage in the development of biotech crop traits, as they provide greater insight into how traits may perform in future products in an agricultural setting.

“We believe we have a significant opportunity to bring innovative technology to the sugarcane market, with immediate opportunities to increase sugar yields and preserve the yields in the kind of drought conditions that have been prevailing in Brazil in recent years,” said Ceres President and CEO Richard Hamilton. He noted that a sugarcane variety with Ceres traits could significantly change production dynamics and economics by increasing sugar and biomass yields while providing additional harvests during the typical five-year lifecycle of a sugarcane stand. 

In similar field evaluations performed last year outside of Brazil, Ceres’ yield traits increased biomass yields in elite tropical sugarcane varieties. Plants with one of the company’s drought tolerance traits resisted the effects of drought and maintained biomass yields with as little as half the water normally required during production. These results were especially impactful because the tests were completed in elite varieties that are already known for their high yields and performance. Favorable results from a research setting are not a guarantee of future commercial performance, and further evaluations will be necessary.

The company expects to have key results from field evaluations outside of Brazil in the next three months. Results from Brazil are expected next year.

Sugarcane is a global crop with over 65 million acres annually harvested worldwide, including approximately 25 million acres in Brazil.