Two years of field trials in Africa with leading lines of Nitrogen Use Efficient (NUE) rice have demonstrated an average yield increase of 19 percent over the conventional control lines.

These results were reported jointly today by Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., an agricultural technology company, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of Ghana’s Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI), the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) of Uganda, and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

CSIR-CRI and NARO have been testing the new rice lines using Arcadia’s NUE trait at two field research locations in Kumasi, Ghana and Namulonge, Uganda.

In the 2014 and 2015 field trials, eight out of the 15 NUE rice lines out-yielded the conventional control lines under rain-fed upland conditions applied with various nitrogen fertilizer rates. The leading NUE rice line showed an average grain yield increase of 19 percent in multiple field trials. At nitrogen rates of 30, 60 and 90 kg per hectare, the yield increase of the leading NUE rice line was 25 percent, 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively, compared with the control lines.

The African field trial results build on results from field trials carried out by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia. In the CIAT trials, four years of testing at two locations demonstrated an average yield increase from the NUE rice lines of 30 percent over the control rice lines.

“Arcadia’s NUE trait has consistently shown double-digit yield increases in all major types of rice grown globally,” said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia. “These results have been achieved in multiple geographies, over many seasons, and under a variety of growing conditions and nitrogen application rates. Our NUE trait has the potential to deliver significant value to farmers worldwide, enabling them to increase yield and farm revenue.”

Arcadia’s NUE trait was developed to help farmers increase crop yields per unit of applied nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen fertilizer is a key input to the global agricultural industry for increasing crop yield, but conventional crops typically use less than half of the nitrogen fertilizer applied. Much of the remainder moves through the soil and enters ground and surface water systems, or volatilizes into the air as a potent greenhouse gas. Arcadia’s NUE trait enables plants to produce higher yields while reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.

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. In Africa, rice is one of the most cultivated and important food crops. Most of Africa’s rice is produced and consumed by small-scale farmers who are often constrained by challenging environmental conditions, such as nutrient-deficient soil, drought and salinity. Soil nitrogen deficiencies, in particular, affect approximately 90 percent of African land used to grow rice and other crops.

Access to rice varieties that make better use of available nitrogen in soil and respond more effectively to small amounts of fertilizer can help alleviate these agricultural pressures on African farmers and can minimize the continent’s dependency on food imports. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) produce about 22.5 million metric tons of rice annually, yet the continent imports more than 13 million metric tons, valued at approximately $7 billion.

The African NUE field trials are part of the NEWEST Rice project, a collaboration between Arcadia and the AATF, working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other organizations under the Feed the Future initiative to help bolster food security in Africa. NEWEST Rice is a triple-gene stack rice variety that combines Arcadia’s Nitrogen Use Efficiency, Water Use Efficiency and Salinity Tolerance traits, helping farmers maintain productivity under variable conditions. The multi-organizational effort leverages the experience of leading African agricultural research organizations, as well as technical expertise and a royalty-free license from Arcadia, to develop and test new rice lines. The Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture provided access to enabling technologies, and CIAT conducted initial field evaluations of the most promising new rice lines.