By Fredrick Obura
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)has signed a license agreement with Japan Tobacco for the use of a transformation technology to develop new rice varieties for the Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Nitrogen Use Efficient, Water Use Efficient and Salt Tolerant (NEWEST) Rice Project seek to address some of the major constraints facing over 20 million smallholder rice farmers in the region.
The license will enable AATF to utilize our plant transformation technology for monocot species developing and deploying the nitrogen efficient, water efficient, and salt tolerant rice products, free of royalties.
Dr Denis Kyetere, the executive director AATF said the goal of the project is to develop and disseminate farmer preferred and locally adapted rice varieties with enhanced nitrogen-use efficiency, water-use efficiency and salt tolerance.
“The slow growth in domestic rice production has been attributed to low yields being achieved by rice farmers in the region,” he said.
“Several factors including nitrogen deficiency and drought are leading constraints to upland rice production, while high salinity is becoming a major problem in many rice growing areas,” he said.
“The license will enable us to utilise the transformation technology for monocot species developing and deploying the nitrogen efficient, water efficient, and salt tolerant rice products, free of royalties,” he.
The Japan Tobacco plant biotechnology is independently managed from its core businesses including tobacco and food.
The technology already licensed in more than 50 private and public entities across the world for numerous monocots including rice, maize, wheat, barley, sorghum, sugarcane switchgrass, miscanthus, forage and turf reduces development costs and time.
“The agreement will also allow AATF to sub-license the transformed materials to other public institutions working on the project. This will enable them to field test the materials in different ecologies,” said Masamichi Terabatake, Japan Tobbacco’s Chief Strategy Officer.
He said the institutions will have the freedom to breed new rice varieties, using the transformed materials as the source of the desired traits. Rice is an important staple food and a commodity of strategic significance across much of Africa.
Rice consumption has been growing by 6 per cent per annum over the years.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, rice production in Sub Saharan Africa has stagnated at about 8 million hectares, producing about 14.5 million tonnes per year against an annual consumption of 21 million tonnes.
The Arcadia Bio sciences are providing access to traits that confer nitrogen use efficiency.