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Microbe to help reduce use of fertilizers identified

By Our Special Correspondent

CHANDIGARH JAN. 5. Scientists at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, have identified a microbe that can help reduce the use of chemical fertilizers in cultivation of rice and other crops and, at the same time, enable the crops to survive in soil with high saline content.

Laboratory trials, including cultivation in greenhouses, were found to be successful. Field trials were being conducted and the results were expected in a few months, the Chairman of the foundation, M.S. Swaminathan, said today.

The microbe was isolated from the soil in the mangroves of Pichavaram near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. Trials were on with a rice variety. The microbes could also be applied to phosphorous-deficient soil.

The trials became significant in the context of predictions that seawater could inundate the low-lying areas in coastal zones due to global warming, he said.

Drought-resistant genes

Dr. Swaminathan told reporters after delivering a lecture at the plenary session of the 91st Indian Science Congress here that the scientists of his foundation were also working on transferring drought-resistant genes to rice and other crops from "subabul," a thorny bush that grows widely in the arid Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu. Efforts were on to map the genes of the plant.

In another lecture, the Joint Director, Research, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited (MAHYCO), Usha Barwale, said the company's scientists had identified four genes which could increase the absorption of phosphate from soil.

The company had developed Indian varieties of Bt. cotton in collaboration with Monsanto.

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