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Bacterium with salinity tolerance

By Our Agriculture Correspondent

The dual-purpose bacterium has shown promising results in field trails with rice crop in saline and normal soils.

A NEW bacterium, endowed with the capacity to fix atmospheric nitrogen in plants and solubilise tri-calcium phosphate, has been isolated from wild rice by the scientists at the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai, recently. "This dual property bacterium has been named Swaminathania salitolerans, in honour of the distinguished agricultural scientist Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, the father of green revolution," said Dr. Sudha Nair, Director, Biodiversity Programme and Dr. P. Loganathan, Research Associate at MSSRF.

Belonging to the family Acetobacteraceae, the new bacterium holds great promise as a potential bio-fertilizer for rice and a host of other crops. "It has high tolerance to salinity and it will be a great boon for farmers in saline tracts. It can fix nitrogen efficiently and also solubilise phosphates locked up in saline soils," explained the scientists.

In the experiments conducted in greenhouse and in field conditions, the bacterium showed increased nitrogen fixation activity and phosphorus solubilisation.

Comparing with uninoculated plants of rice and black gram, the plants treated with this bacterial culture have shown increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, according to the scientists. "The bacterium can do well in normal soils also, and this is the biggest advantage for farmers. It is also found to do well in field trials with variety CO-43 in a farmer's holding near Chidambaram," said Dr. Sudha Nair and Dr. Loganathan.

The bacterium can be ideally used in integrated plant nutrient management, and it can help in substantial saving in the application of mineral nitrogen and phosphorus. Thus it can help reduce the cost of inputs. It can prevent the loss of applied nitrogen from the soil, and increase the nitrogen and phosphorus uptake by the plants.

It can thus help in efficient use of plant nutrients, and in an economical way, according to the scientists. "The new bacterium has opened up new options for the farmers in the integrated plant nutrient management in an eco-friendly way," said the scientists.

Studies at MSSRF in the last few years have been aimed at identifying potential strains of growth promoting bacteria, such as the nitrogen fixers and phosphate solubilisers, which can perform under stressed conditions like salinity. After intensive study of the root zones of wide variety of hosts, the new bacterium with the unique properties was discovered. Detailed comparative studies with other organisms were made, and after seeing its unique characteristics and promising potentials the scientists proposed to name it after Prof. Swaminathan. The proposed name has been accepted in International Journal of Systematic Evolutionary Microbiology, according to them.

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