Clean Tech

A new green future waiting to take root

Preeti Mehra | Updated on January 29, 2020 Published on January 29, 2020

TERI’s nano biofertiliser technology promises to be a game changer for farmers

Scientists at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) have been researching nutrients for agricultural crops for several decades and have achieved several breakthroughs. The successes range from the possibility of reclaiming wastelands to rejuvenating degraded soil and delivering nutrients to plants with utmost precision to enhance plant growth. The research has led to several biofertiliser formulations — Mycorrhiza as well as nano agri input products, some of which the premier institution has been able to develop for end-users and subsequently commercialise.

Take Mycorrhiza, a fungi form biofertiliser that has an intimate, mutually beneficial relationship with higher plant roots. The efficacy of Mycorrhiza has been proved without doubt. According to research, it increases the absorbing area of the roots by hundred to thousand times and also makes unavailable and other tightly-bound soil-essential nutrients available to the plants, thereby facilitating the ability of the plants to utilise soil resources more efficiently.

Through extensive research over the years, TERI’s Centre for Mycorrhizal Research has mastered ‘In Vitro Mass Production Technology’ and produces genetically pure, high-quality Mycorrhiza in a sterile lab environment.

The product has broad spectrum application and can be used for 85 per cent of plant species on Earth. It also has many more pluses and has clearly been proved a natural alternative to the agro-chemicals available in the market which, due to by sheer extensive use, are decreasing in their efficacy, increasing soil toxicity and creating havoc for the environment.

Today, apart from domestic use, Mycorrhiza is being exported to Europe and North America in tablets, granules and powder form. “Being a biological product, its shelf life is a major issue as it survives in minus 10 degrees centigrade to 60 degrees centigrade. In developed countries the cold chain takes care of the product, but in India, many times the cold chain is not available to farmers so, with its efficacy lost, farmers have not taken to it as they should have,” says Dr Alok Adholeya, Senior Director, Sustainable Agriculture at TERI, and the force behind the research on Mycorrhiza and nano biofertilisers.

Precision delivery

Soil degeneration has also led to a demand for eco-friendly fertilisers that deliver nutrients to the plant with precision and increased efficacy. The TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre (TDNBC) has developed nanobiotechnology-based solutions to solve this issue.

“TDNBC’s research team is involved in the development of innovative methods of nano fertiliser synthesis from waste and natural mineral materials using indigenous microbial resources and nanomaterials synthesised here,” explains Adholeya. TERI’s line of nano-enabled smart fertilisers have specialities of their own and are coated or blended with nutrients like boron, sulphur, zinc, polymers and molecules. In fact, recently successful biological production methods of Nano Zinc (Zn)-Iron (Fe), and Nano Phosphorus (P), nano-fertilisers have been developed and scaled up.

Bioreactors to the fore

To enable more reach for the products, TERI has developed technology that will decentralise the production processes of both the specialised nano-fertilisers and Mycorrhiza. It has created exclusive bioreactor facilities that are relatively small and capable of producing the same agri-nutrition products that TERI produces in its labs.

The bioreactor units can be transported to large farms, industrial units or warehouses and are simple enough for a lay person to use, hence, going forward, farmers and entrepreneurs would be able to produce biofertiliser variants on their own.

“The facility is now working and producing nano-fertiliser variants for the field performance testing and high use efficiency nature validation with state agriculture universities and industrial partners,” says Adholeya and hopes that government regulation will further support such sustainable agriculture products.

Published on January 29, 2020
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