Biofertilizer – Technology for Enhanced Plant Growth
Biofertilizer technology has shown enhanced plant growth in a number of different plants and different soil conditions. Different microbial species can increase plant phosphorus uptake, fix nitrogen, produce auxins (plant growth hormones), and increase availability of other mineral nutrients.
Here’s a video showing increase root growth through time-lapsed photography. The right side is Treated with Biota Max™ and the left side is untreated.
Notice three key points in the video:
- The treated side grows more total root mass,
- The treated side germinates faster
- More plants germinate in the treated side.
Definition of Biofertilizer – Bio fertilizer
Here’s a good definition from Advances in Applied Microbiology.
Biofertilizers are defined as substances containing living microbes, which when applied to seed, plant, or soil promote growth by the supply of essential nutrients such as N, P, and other mineral nutrients.
I would add that Biofertilizers enhance plant growth by producing auxins and siderosphores.
Lets take each of these benefits and discuss them a little further.
Increasing Phosphorus Uptake
Phosphorus is needed in plant cells for a number of purposes including photosynthesis, DNA, respiration and energy storage. Phosphorus is typically an expensive input for farmers. Additionally, phosphate runoff has become an environmental problem and a major issue in certain parts of the country. Phosphate is considered a growth limiting nutrient.
Biofertilizers can help reduce the amount of phosphorus that needs to be applied to crops. Certain species of biofertilizers sometimes called Phosphate Solubilizing Microorgainsms (PSM), such as Bacillus subtilis, and Trichoderma, can solubilize phosphate making the phosphate available to the plant.
By increasing Phosphate uptake, plant yield can be increased.
Nitrogen Fixation and Biofertilizer
Nitrogen is an essential element for life. In plants, Nitrogen is needed in amino acids, proteins, DNA and chlorophyll. Atmospheric nitrogen is very plentiful but difficult to plants to use because atmospheric nitrogen (N2) is relatively inert, meaning that it does not easily react with other chemicals.
So plants need the nitrogen in another form. This is where microorganisms in biofertilizers comes into play. Nitrogen fixation occurs when microoganisms convert atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into ammonia (NH3). Ammonia is easily utilized by plants.
Nitrogen fixation can be performed only by certain types of microorganisms including Rhizobium and Paenibacillus.
The use of nitrogen fixation biofertilizers has become common in soybean and peanut production. Typically, the biofertilizer is applied as a seed treatment.
Biofertilizers and Plant Growth Promotion
Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) are a type of biofertilizer. This type of biofertilizer has been known since 1970 or so, but just in the last few years have they become more popular. Rhizobacteria (Rhizo means root zone) are bacteria that have formed a symbiotic, or mutually beneficial relationship, with plant roots.
The bacteria are attracted by the plant exudates, chemicals that the plant roots give off. In turn, the bacteria produce a number of chemicals that help the plant. Specifically, these chemicals help the plant grow bigger and better root systems. With a better developed root system, the plant is healthier and will produce better yields.
Rhizobacteria are known to produce a number of growth hormones such as auxins and gibberellins. These compounds are particularly useful when they are available at the beginning of root formation.
Typical usage is at the beginning of the planting cycle or at the transplant phase. Rice, corn, peppers, palm, are just some of the crops that will benefit from usage of a quality biofertilizer.
Other Biofertilizer Benefits
In addition to the benefits I’ve listed above there are more benefits to biofertilizers, including:
- Plant stress resistance
- Chitinase production
- Siderophores production
- Potassium solubilization
- Decrease in the usage of traditional (N,P,K) fertilizers.
The use of biofertilizers is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade. As usage increases, more research will be performed in this area. I expect we’ll see many more benefits of biofertilizer usage in the coming years.
Custom Biologicals, Inc. manufactures and distributes biofertilizers. Contact us at (561) 797-3008 or via email at Bill@Custombio.biz.