Author: Prof. Dr. Nikolay Vassilev, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Sciences, University of Granada
As some colleagues say “Soil is mostly microorganisms, both alive and dead”. It is one of the most complex ecosystems that we know…and in EXCALIBUR we want to develop microbial inoculants and introduce them into this microbial diverse environment trying to help plants growing faster and healthier. We know that the integrity of this Soil-Microworld depends on a wide number of factors such as soil physical characteristics, plant requirements and mechanisms to attract or reject bacteria and fungi, environmental abiotic parameters such as pH, temperature, salinity, biotic systems and interrelation between all these factors and actors.
The role of the research group of the University of Granada as a part of the EXCALIBUR Project is to find the best way of developing a framework for a safe and attractive mode of microbial inoculant production and formulation. These two sets of processes and techniques are the most important as they determine the success of the final products in soil-plant systems.
Our group in laboratory conditions carries out the production of microorganisms with plant beneficial properties. We test different modes of fermentation such as solid-state and submerged but also use the advantages of other techniques. Recently, we finished experimentally a very fast and easy to perform method for production of fungal mycelium and spores, which will be further formulated in carrier materials.
Another set of experiments was performed to compare the effect of the type of fermentation on the growth and metabolic activity of a model microorganism solubilizer of inorganic phosphates. The experimental scheme additionally clarified the response of the microbial culture in conditions of abiotic stress (different salinity and pH levels).
The second theme of our work includes the formulation process. It is a long way starting with the selection of the biological and non-biological materials, which will be included in the formulated product. In this point, we tested the compatibility between microorganisms and between microorganisms and bioeffectors, which stimulate plant growth.
The UGR additionally is testing various inert materials as a part of the cell-carrier formulations to facilitate the cell survival and microbial metabolic activity during storage and/or the establishment of the microbial inoculant in soil including root colonization.
Our team is not alone in this journey. We are in permanent contact with our partners from INHORT and INTERMAG from Poland, the French company INOCULUM PLUS, the University of Graz, KIS-Slovenia, the University of Torino, the NIAB East Malling Research – UK, and always in touch with the Coordination-CNR, Italy. It is challenging but exiting to work in a project like EXCALIBUR and with partners ready to help, discuss, prepare scientific papers, etc.