What is Biofertilizer ?
A Bio fertilizer (also bio-fertilizer) is a substance which contains living microorganisms which, when applied to seeds, plant surfaces, or soil, colonizes the rhizosphere or the interior of the plant and promotes growth by increasing the supply or availability of primary nutrients to the host plant.
The fertilizers are used to improve the fertility of the land using biological wastes, hence the term biofertilizers, and biological wastes do not contain any chemicals which are detrimental to the living soil.
Important groups of Bio-fertilizers
Azolla is a small, eukaryotic, aquatic fern having global distribution. Prokaryotic blue green algae Anabena azolla resides in its leaves as a symbiont.Azolla is an alternative nitrogen source. This association has gained wide interest because of its potential use as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Symbiotic nitrogen fixation by Rhizobium with legumes contribute substantially to total nitrogen fixation. Rhizobium inoculation is a well-known agronomic practice to ensure adequate nitrogen.
Process flow of Bio-fertilizers
- It adds nutrients through the natural processes of nitrogen fixation, solubilizing phosphorus, and stimulating plant growth through the synthesis of growth-promoting substances.
- Bio-fertilizers can be expected to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The microorganisms in bio-fertilizers restore the soil’s natural nutrient cycle and build soil organic matter. Through the use of bio-fertilizers, healthy plants can be grown, while enhancing the sustainability and the health of the soil. Since they play several roles, a preferred scientific term for such beneficial bacteria is “plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria” (PGPR).
- Therefore, they are extremely advantageous in enriching soil fertility and fulfilling plant nutrient requirements by supplying the organic nutrients through microorganism and their byproducts. Hence, bio-fertilizers do not contain any chemicals which are harmful to the living soil.
- Bio-fertilizers provide eco-friendly organic agro-input and are more cost-effective than chemical fertilizers. Bio-fertilizers such as Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Azospirilium and blue green algae (BGA) have been in use a long time.
- Rhizobiuminoculant is used for leguminous crops. Azotobacter can be used with crops like wheat, maize, mustard, cotton, potato and other vegetable crops.
- Azospirillum inoculations are recommended mainly for sorghum, millets, maize, sugarcane and wheat. Blue green algae belonging to a general cyanobacteria genus, Nostoc or Anabaena or Tolypothrix or Aulosira, fix atmospheric nitrogen and are used as inoculations for paddy crop grown both under upland and low-land conditions.
- Anabaena in association with water fern Azolla contributes nitrogen up to 60 kg/ha/season and also enriches soils with organic matter.
- Other types of bacteria, so-called phosphate-solubilizing bacteria, such as Pantoea agglomerans strain P5 or Pseudomonas putida strain P13,are able to solubilize the insoluble phosphate from organic and inorganic phosphate sources.
- In fact, due to immobilization of phosphate by mineral ions such as Fe, Al and Ca or organic acids, the rate of available phosphate (Pi) in soil is well below plant needs.
- In addition, chemical Pi fertilizers are also immobilized in the soil, immediately, so that less than 20 percent of added fertilizer is absorbed by plants. Therefore, reduction in Pi resources, on one hand, and environmental pollutions resulting from both production and applications of chemical Pi fertilizer, on the other hand, have already demanded the use of new generation of phosphate fertilizers globally known as phosphate-solubilizing bacteria or phosphate bio-fertilizers.
Advantages of Biofertilizer
- Bio-fertilizer is technically living, it can symbiotically associate with plant roots. Involved microorganisms could readily and safely convert complex organic material in simple compounds, so that plants are easily taken up.
- Microorganism function is in long duration, causing improvement of the soil fertility. It maintains the natural habitat of the soil. It increases crop yield by 20-30%, replaces chemical nitrogen and phosphorus by 25%, and stimulates plant growth.
- It can also provide protection against drought and some soil-borne diseases.
- Bio-fertilizers are cost-effective relative to chemical fertilizers. They have lower manufacturing costs, especially regarding nitrogen and phosphorus use.
Application of Biofertilizers
- Seed treatment or seed inoculation
- Seedling root dip
- Main field application
One packet of the inoculant is mixed with 200 ml of rice kanji to make a slurry. The seeds required for an acre are mixed in the slurry so as to have a uniform coating of the inoculant over the seeds and then shade dried for 30 minutes. The shade dried seeds should be sown within 24 hours. One packet of the inoculant (200 g) is sufficient to treat 10 kg of seeds.
Seedling root dip
This method is used for transplanted crops. Two packets of the inoculant is mixed in 40 litres of water. The root portion of the seedlings required for an acre is dipped in the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes and then transplanted.
Main field application
Four packets of the inoculant is mixed with 20 kgs of dried and powdered farm yard manure and then broadcasted in one acre of main field just before transplanting.
Constraints in Biofertilizer Technology
Though the biofertilizer technology is a low cost, ecofriendly technology, several constraints limit the application or implementation of the technology the constraints may be environmental, technological, infrastructural, financial, human resources, unawareness, quality, marketing, etc. The different constraints in one way or other affecting the technique at production, or marketing or usage.
- Use of improper, less efficient strains for production.
- Lack of qualified technical personnel in production units.
- Production of poor quality inoculants without understanding the basic microbiological techniques
- Short shelf life of inoculants.
- Non-availability of suitable facilities for production
- Lack of essential equipment, power supply, etc.
- Space availability for laboratory, production, storage, etc.
- Lack of facility for cold storage of inoculant packets
- Financial constraints
- Non-availability of sufficient funds and problems in getting bank loans
- Less return by sale of products in smaller production units.
- Seasonal demand for biofertilizers
- Simultaneous cropping operations and short span of sowing/planting in a particular locality
- Soil characteristics like salinity, acidity, drought, water logging, etc.
Human resources and quality constraints
- Lack of technically qualified staff in the production units.
- Lack of suitable training on the production techniques.
- Ignorance on the quality of the product by the manufacturer
- Non-availability of quality specifications and quick quality control methods
- No regulation or act on the quality of the products
- Awareness on the technology
- Unawareness on the benefits of the technology
- Problem in the adoption of the technology by the farmers due to different methods of inoculation.
- No visual difference in the crop growth immediately as that of inorganic fertilizers.