Hybrid rice typically yields 15–20% more grain than inbred rice varieties grown under the same conditions, as a result of heterosis.
Hybrid rice can provide an avenue for African rice farmers to boost rice yields and improve profitability. According to economic analyses, the increase in yield farmers can achieve by switching to hybrid cultivars translates into about 40% increased income.
Moreover, hybrid rice seed production can be a lucrative business for seed companies and create employment opportunities for Africa’s youth. Governments will benefit from increased domestic rice production and its positive impact on the economy through employment.
In 2010, AfricaRice launched its own hybrid rice breeding program to develop locally adapted hybrids. Backcross breeding resulted in the development of new cytoplasmic male sterile (CMS) lines with good agronomic and outcrossing characteristics to obtain high seed yield, while test-crossing and microsatellite screening led to the identification of suitable restorer lines, for the three-line CMS system of hybrid production.
AfricaRice has developed a wide range of hybrid lines that adapt to African conditions with short, medium and long cycles according to needs, including some 50 highly promising hybrids with 15–20% yield advantage, short duration, desirable grain quality and good milling recovery. Newly developed hybrid lines that performed well at the research station were sent to Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda for testing.
Between 2014 and 2016, in collaboration with the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) and the Senegalese release service, four hybrid lines were identified for PVS trials at three sites in the country.
The results of the trials supported the release of the first hybrid rice variety ISRIZ-9 (AR051H) in 2017 by ISRA in Senegal. This hybrid yields 11-13 t/ha, has long slender grains, good milling quality, and aroma, a trait that is highly appreciated by Senegalese consumers.
Hybrid ISRIZ-9 together with some promising hybrids newly developed by AfricaRice are being promoted by the Rice Compact of the African Development Bank-funded project on Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) in SSA.
Since hybrid rice is new to Africa, a training program on hybrid rice is being jointly implemented by TAAT and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF).
The AfricaRice hybrid rice program continues to develop three-line hybrids, some of which are better than ISRIZ-9 and have yield potential of up to 14-15 t/ha. It is also deploying two-line system. which relies on environmental genetic male sterility (EGMS). In comparison to the three-line system, the two-line system is more economical and yet shows similarly high heterosis.