Arcadia Biosciences, Inc., has joined with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to announce the completion of a third year of field trials of Nitrogen Use Efficient (NUE) rice. CIAT has been testing the rice at the center’s research fields in Colombia. For the third year in a row, rice lines with Arcadia’s NUE trait produced significant yield increases relative to conventional varieties.

Over the three years of field trials, the leading rice line with Arcadia’s NUE trait out-yielded control lines by an average of 27 percent. The trials included both irrigated lowland and rain-fed upland locations. In the third year trial, at 50 percent of normal applied nitrogen fertilizer, the leading NUE rice line out-produced the control line by 33 percent. The previous two years’ trials showed yield increases of 22 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

“These results, combined with earlier results in other types of rice, demonstrate the efficacy of our NUE trait in all major rice types,” said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia. “We believe that NUE rice offers an opportunity to address food security issues globally, while also significantly improving economic outcomes for small farmers and their communities.”

Rice is the world’s most valuable crop, grown on 162 million hectares globally with a harvest value of $334.7 billion in 2012 (FAO 2012 statistics; FAOSTAT). 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 (IFPRI) predicted that maintaining food security in the face of climate change and population growth will require a combination of technologies that target broad-based yield improvement, abiotic stresses such as heat and drought, and improved nitrogen use efficiency.

Arcadia’s NUE trait was created to help farmers reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizer, a staple in the agricultural industry for increasing crop yield. Conventional crops only utilize about half of the costly 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 use nitrogen more efficiently, helping farmers improve yields while reducing costly fertilizer inputs and reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.

The NUE rice field trials in Colombia are part of a five-year collaboration between Arcadia, CIAT, and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), under the Nitrogen-use Efficient, Water-use Efficient and Salt Tolerant (NEWEST) rice project, aimed at improving the productivity and sustainability of rice production across Sub-Saharan Africa. The collaboration is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. CIAT conducts field trials as initial validation and screening of NUE rice lines prior to field trials in Africa, which are now underway in Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria.

“This project definitely marks a major scientific milestone,” said Michael Gomez Selvaraj, crop physiologist who is leading the project at CIAT. “We believe that the multi-location field trials that are conducted across the countries will be more useful to study the proof of concept of these interesting genes and select promising transgenic lines that will enable the small holder rice farmers to increase the rice production in Africa.”