NIGERIA – The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in association with National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) and the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) among other research institutions in Nigeria has developed a Genetically Engineered (GE) rice which could increase yield by 20 per cent and significantly boost the food security agenda of the federal government.

The foundation said the Nitrogen Efficient Water Efficient Salt Tolerant (NEWEST) rice type, will be a game changer in the production of the grain, aiding to significantly reduce importation.

Speaking during the 2021 annual review and planning meeting of the NEWEST rice project in Abuja, the Rice Project Manager for AATF, Dr. Kayode Sanni, enlightened that unlike the conventional rice which has low yield per hectare, the new variety could utilize low nitrogen in the soil to produce good yields.

According to Thisdaylive, he added that the innovation will lower production costs which had impacted price in Nigeria as well as bridge rice supply gaps.

“Though the land area for rice has increased but there is a need for increase in the yield so that farmers will have better yield on their farms, and it has to be done using technology, and what we have done is that we have developed rice that can actually grow under low nitrogen and still give a very good yield,” Sanni said.

Sanni, who is also an instructor for the Alliance for Hybrid Rice in Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya informed that one of the ways to augment crop yields particularly rice was to have, crops that can make the best of every little nitrogen that is available in the soil.

Reduction in the quantity of fertilizer used in rice fields also prevents environmental pollution by containing green house gas emission.

The GE crop will serve as security for farmers when they are unable to access fertilizers or plant in a land that lacks nitrogen as it will still guarantee substantial yields.

The Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Prof. Abdullah Mustapha, applauded the innovation citing that the country had lost billions of naira in rice importation.

The review engagement with stakeholders is preliminary to seeking approval from the NBMA which is committed to ensuring proper regulation of modern biotechnology.