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The Nitrogen-efficient, Water-efficient and Salt-tolerant (NEWEST) rice Project marked a significant milestone with the planting of the first confined field trials in Uganda and Ghana in April 2013. The installation of the trials followed approval received from the National Biosafety Committees of the two countries in 2012.
Dr Denis T. Kyetere, the Executive Director, AATF said that the rice trials in the two countries were a significant milestone for the project, advancing the prospect of improved rice varieties that will address the constraints of nitrogen deficiency, drought and salinity in rice production for smallholder farmers.
Mr Eric Rey, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Arcadia Biosciences applauded the developments and progress saying ‘these first test plantings in Uganda and Ghana are an important step in our efforts to help alleviate the challenges of feeding a growing population with technologies that are both environmentally responsible and economically sustainable.’
The NEWEST rice project partnership is coordinated by AATF and is developing genetically improved African rice varieties with enhanced agronomic traits, specifically nitrogen-use efficiency, water-use efficiency and salt tolerance. The partnership consists of Arcadia Biosciences who is donating the trait technologies, producing transgenic plants and providing technical support; Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture is donating the enabling technologies for plant transformation; International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, the National Agricultural Research Organisation, Uganda and Crop Research Institute, Ghana are involved in field testing for trait gain.
Rice is an important staple food and a commodity of strategic significance across much of Africa whose production remains low despite rising consumer demand. Several abiotic factors account for the low rice production, but nitrogen deficiency and drought have been cited as leading constraints to upland rice production, while high salinity is increasingly becoming a major problem in many rice growing areas of Africa.
Similar trials are expected to be planted in Ghana later in the year. Uganda and Ghana are the first pilot countries for the NEWEST rice Project.
For more information on the NEWEST Rice Project contact Prince Addae (p.addae@ aatf-africa.org)