THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Nov. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. (Nasdaq: CERE) today announced that the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has expanded its grant to the company to develop traits in rice for Asia. Based on Ceres' success to date, USAID will provide an additional $3.5 million to Ceres over the next four years to extend field trialing and development of the company's biotech traits and trait stacks in rice. The company will also help foster the development of local expertise in biotech traits in rice within India. The USAID grant to Ceres is administered in alignment with the Feed the Future Research Strategy, which is a component of Feed the Future, the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative. Since 2009, Ceres has worked with USAID, which delivers economic and humanitarian assistance on behalf of the U.S. government, under a $3.0 million grant to increase rice yields, especially under stress conditions and on poor soils. India is expected to become the world's most populous nation, but its crop yields lag behind other countries at 58th in the world. To increase cereal crop production capabilities in India and other countries in Asia, more successful breeding and trait development programs are needed. The new USAID funding will extend Ceres' trait work in rice for four more years. Ceres researchers will focus specifically on combining its best high-yield and stress-tolerance genes into stacks, which can amplify the benefits of individual traits. Ceres will also continue to collaborate with a local Indian seed company to cross the best traits and trait stacks into commercial rice types adapted to the subcontinent. Work under the grant will begin at Ceres' facility in Thousand Oaks, California and through a collaboration partner in China. Evaluations of parental breeding lines are now underway in India. Subject to regulatory approval, field evaluations of the first commercial hybrids with the Ceres traits could begin as early as mid-2013. Roger Pennell, PhD., Ceres Vice President of Trait Development and the project lead under the grant, said that one of the most important aspects of the USAID grant is to help build the expertise and capacity within India to ensure further development of biotech traits as well as to help develop a commercial plan to promote sustainable agricultural production and greater food security. "Domestic rice yields in India are insufficient to reliably feed the growing population, especially under drought conditions and on soils with depleted nitrogen or high amounts of salt contamination. Our trait work here offers a new opportunity to not only help increase yields in one of the most widely cultivated crops in the world, but also to help return low quality cropland to productivity," said Pennell. He noted that in addition to its core energy crop business, Ceres has generated many biotech traits specifically for cereal crops, like rice, that increase grain yields and provide greater yield stability across environments. The company intends to license these traits to established seed companies. Steve Bobzin, PhD., Senior Director of Technology Planning, Protection and Acquisition at Ceres, and co-author of the grant proposal, said that the performance of traits and trait stacks in rice is also a good indicator of performance in other grass species, such as sorghum, switchgrass and miscanthus. "We expect that the evaluation of many of these trait stacks in rice will have the additional benefit of accelerating their development in our core energy crops." ABOUT CERESCeres, Inc. ( www.ceres.net) is an agricultural biotechnology company that markets seeds for energy crops used in the production of renewable transportation fuels, electricity and bio-based products. The company combines advanced plant breeding and biotechnology to develop products that can address the limitations of first-generation bioenergy feedstocks, increase biomass productivity, reduce crop inputs and improve cultivation on marginal land. Its development activities include sweet sorghum, high-biomass sorghum, switchgrass and miscanthus. Ceres markets its products under its Blade brand. ABOUT USAIDThe U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent agency that provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. As stated in the President's National Security Strategy, USAID's work in development joins diplomacy and defense as one of three key pieces of the nation's foreign policy apparatus. USAID promotes peace and stability by fostering economic growth, protecting human health, providing emergency humanitarian assistance, and enhancing democracy in developing countries. These efforts to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide represent U.S. values and advance U.S. interests for peace and prosperity. www.usaid.govABOUT FEED THE FUTUREFeed the Future is the United States Government's global hunger and food security initiative. It supports country-driven approaches to address the root causes of hunger and poverty and forge long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and undernutrition. Drawing upon resources and expertise of agencies across the U.S. Government, this Presidential Initiative is helping countries transform their own agriculture sectors to sustainably grow enough food to feed their people. www.feedthefuture.govCERES FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTSThis press release may contain forward-looking statements. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, including statements regarding our efforts to develop and commercialize our products, our short-term and long-term business strategies, market and industry expectations, future operating metrics, product yields and future results of operations and financial position, are forward-looking statements. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are, in some cases, beyond our control. Factors that could materially affect actual results can be found in Ceres' filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Ceres undertakes no intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing Ceres' views as of any date subsequent to the date of this press release. SOURCE Ceres, Inc.