Four years of field trials with a leading line of Nitrogen Use Efficient (NUE) rice have demonstrated an average 30 percent yield increase over conventional controls. These results were reported jointly today by Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., an agricultural technology company, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). CIAT has been testing the novel rice lines using Arcadia’s NUE trait at the center’s research fields in Colombia.
In this most recent field trial under irrigated upland conditions and 50 percent of normal nitrogen fertilizer application, the leading NUE rice line out-yielded the conventional control lines by 34 percent. In the three previous years of trials under both irrigated lowland and upland rainfed conditions, the leading line out-yielded control lines by 22, 30 and 33 percent, respectively.
Over the four years of field trials, the average yield increase for the leading NUE rice line was 30 percent over the conventional controls. In the fourth-year trial, two additional NUE rice lines increased grain yield by 24 to 28 percent at 17 percent of normally applied nitrogen fertilizer in Colombia, and by 10 to 22 percent at 50 percent of normal nitrogen application.
“Yield increases greater than 15 percent from a single trait are very rare in agriculture,” said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia. “For our NUE trait in rice, we now have a solid history over four years of independent field testing at CIAT showing consistent yield increases well above 20 percent. These results in NERICA rice, combined with our results in other types of rice, demonstrate the major yield increase opportunity from our NUE trait in all major types of rice.”
“Yield increases of this magnitude have the potential to significantly change the economics of rice production, benefitting farmers, rural economies and food security simultaneously,” Rey added. “Together with our seed company partners, Arcadia is working diligently to bring commercial seed with our NUE trait to farmers in rice and several other major crops.”
Arcadia currently has five NUE products, including NUE rice, in Phase 3 of product development. The company recently completed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Early Food Safety Evaluation for the NUE trait, which establishes the foundation of trait safety data for future regulatory approvals of the trait in all crops globally.
Rice is the world’s most valuable crop, grown on 165 million hectares 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. In a recent report, the International Food Policy Research Institute predicted that sustainable maintenance of food security in the face of climate change and population growth will require a combination of technologies that target broad-based yield improvement, improved nitrogen use efficiency, and abiotic stresses such as heat and drought.
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 utilize less than half of 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 greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Arcadia’s NUE trait enables plants to produce higher yields while reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.
The NUE rice field trials in Colombia are part of a five-year collaboration between Arcadia, CIAT and AATF under the Nitrogen-use Efficient, Water-use Efficient and Salt Tolerant (NEWEST) rice project. The collaboration is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) underFeed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.