Study: Nitrogen use efficiency trait increases sugarcane biomass

By Arcadia Biosciences Inc. | April 21, 2015

Arcadia Biosciences Inc., an agricultural technology company that develops and commercializes plant traits and products that improve farm economics and benefit the environment and human health, announced the results of a new study conducted by the South African Sugarcane Research Institute. The study, published in the scientific journal Plant Cell Reports, showed significant improvements in plant growth parameters and biomass in sugarcane lines incorporating Arcadia’s nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) trait.

In a greenhouse trial under low nitrogen conditions, the sugarcane lines with Arcadia’s NUE trait showed substantial increases in biomass and nitrogen uptake compared to conventional lines. The leading NUE sugarcane lines showed a 38 to 93 percent increase in biomass over controls.

“This study is a significant step in the development of higher yielding, less costly and environmentally sustainable sugarcane varieties,” said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia Biosciences. “Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the most important crop inputs in sugarcane production, and this study indicates that Arcadia’s NUE trait can support enhanced yields for one of the world’s most important food and biofuel crops, improving on-farm efficiency, reducing waste and improving the environmental footprint of sugarcane production.”

With more than 26 million hectares cultivated globally, sugarcane is a major contributor to rural economies, food markets and energy markets. Grown primarily in rural and tropical areas, sugarcane accounts for more than 70 percent of the world’s sugar production, and it is among the most nitrogen-intensive crops in some areas.

Arcadia’s NUE trait was developed to help farmers increase yields and reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizer, a staple in the agricultural industry for increasing crop yield. Conventional crops only use about half of applied nitrogen fertilizer. 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 improving the environmental footprint of agriculture. The trait’s efficacy has been demonstrated in multiple crops, including rice, wheat, barley and canola.

Further testing will examine NUE sugarcane performance in the field under various nitrogen levels, as well as the trait’s effect on compositional factors such as sucrose levels in the mature crop.