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Navratna Journal JAN-FEB 2008 Page : 62

Blue Green Algae Biofertilizer Technology

for rice based cropping system of Western Orissa
o o o Dr.Jayanta Kumar Sahu
Orissa state(81 27’ E, 17 49’ N to 87 39’
E,29 34’ N)is one among the few principal rice shows this trend(Sahu,Naik and Adhikary,1996).It is
growing states of India. Based on soil type, climatic therefore time to think for some of the alternative natu-
water balance, intensity and duration of rain fall and ral resources to meet part of our demand and to re-
topography Orissa is divided into 9 agro climatic lieve the pressure on the chemical fertilizer nitrogen
zones. Out of these 9th agro climatic zone, Western required.
and mid central table land comprises major rice grow- Under water logged conditions of rice fields,
ing areas of Orissa. Bargarh and adjoining regions Blue Green algae plays a vital role in maintaining soil
harvest rice crop twice a year and serve as a rice fertility and crop yield even in the absence of any
bowl for Orissa and its neighboring state. As, rice is added agrochemicals. In recent years, algalisation has
a staple food for all most all people of this region, been recognized as an important input in rice cultiva-
study on the modern rice cultivation practice and tion as its form a per-
specifically soil nutrient study have made tremen- petually renewable
dous interest for agricultural scientists, officials, work- source of nutrients
ers and farmers of this region. and improve soil
Nitrogen is one of the most essential fertiliz- health (Venkatraman,
ers for crop plants. Though it constitutes over 70% 1981; Goyal,1993)
of our atmosphere, the crop plants are unable to Cyanobacterial
exploit it directly from the nature. To support crop biofertilizer for rice
production the fertilizer consumption has increased
to many folds. Several thousands tones of chemical cultivation is an eco friendly, easily manageable in-
fertilizers consumed per year(two cropping seasons) put forming a self generating system contributing to
alone in Bargarh and adjoining regions of Western about 25 Kg N/ha per season and also they add or-
Orissa .Increasing cost of chemical fertilizers, reduc- ganic matter and growth promoting substances to
tion/abolition of subsidy, widening gap between sup- the soil (Roger and Kulasooriya,1980).
ply and demand together with low level of purchas- A survey on the distributional pattern of Blue
ing power of majority farmers of this region have Green algae on all nine agro climatic zones of Orissa
indeed created an embarrassing problem. Also the was studied. Rich diversity of Blue Green algae com-
chemical based system of rising crop has degraded prising specie of Nostoc, Anabaena
the soil environment (altered C/N ratio) which has ,Aulosira,Calothrix,Tolypothrix and Cylindro spermum
cumulated in reduced agrochemical utilizing effi- was observed in the several rice fields of Western
ciency of crop plants. Chemical characteristics of soil Orissa (Naik, Sahu and Adhikary, 1996) .Out
samples of many places of Western Orissa also of the eight different strains of Nitrogen fixing Blue

Blue-green algae (BGA) are primitive

Some blue-green algae produce toxins
microscopic plants that live in fresh water. Their
that could pose a health risk to people and scientific name is cyanobacteria but they are more com-
animals when they are exposed to them in large monly known as pond scum. Normally blue-green
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enough quantities. Health effects could occur algae are barely visible, but, during warm weather,
populations can rapidly increase to form a large mass
when surface scums or water containing high called a bloom. Blooms most commonly occur during
levels of blue-green algal toxins are swallowed, the late summer and early fall.Blue-green algae thrive
through contact with the skin or when airborne in areas where the water is shallow, slow moving, and
droplets con-taining toxins are inhaled while warm, but they may also be present below the surface
in deeper, cooler water. One key factor affecting growth
swimming, bathing or showering. rates is the level of available nutrients such as phos-
phorus and nitrogen
Navratna Journal JAN-FEB 2008 Page : 63

Green algae suggested for biofertilizer production in out from the soil. The soil should be preferably taken
Orissa, one efficient Nitrogen fixer Nostoc carneum from a fallow land since it is low in Nitrogen and mi-
UU 29130 belong to Western part of Orissa, crobial flora.
Padampur. Also this strain has been deposited in BGA • Fill the tanks with water up to a height of about 15
germplasm conservation centre at Indian Agricultural cm and add insecticide(10-15ml malathion, 50% EC
Research Institute, New Delhi .This strain is a region or endosulphan 30% EC) to prevent breeding of
specific stress compatible strain, therefore, this spe- mosquitoes and other insects. Mix the contents thor-
cies can be recommended for biofertilizer production oughly and allow to stand till the supernatant be-
by farmers in this region.A tested (rural oriented) comes clear.
method is described below which is recommended •Sprinkle 200 g of BGA culture on the water
for setting up large scale algal production farm in this surface(mother starter region specific BGA cultures
region. are available at Utkal university BGA germplasm
Mass production in cemented tanks conservation centre, Bhubaneswar)
Out of the different method recommended for the pro- • Under favorable conditions (temperature 300 C
duction of BGA, open air cement tank method is con- and above), the growth of blue-green algae will be
sidered to be easy and cost effective. The cement rapid and a thick algal mat is formed on the surface of
tanks are permanent structures and can be cleaned the water in about 10-15 days. At this stage, forma-
easily. On the other hand galvanized iron trays are tion of another BGA layer can be seen on the surface
very expensive, prone to rusting and difficult to clean. of the soil. During this period, add water periodically
Similarly polythene lined pits don’t last for more than to maintain the water level around 10 cm.
3-4 harvests and thus become costly. • Closely monitor the BGA coming up in the tanks
Production of BGA inoculum can be done in by periodically examining the algal growth using a
the following steps microscope. One can alternatively use the iodine test
• Construct cement tanks of size5m length,1.5m to differentiate between green and blue-green algae.
width and 0.3m depth in an open space. The inner The green algae turn dark violet or black in colour
walls and floor of the tank should be glazed smooth. with iodine.
Provide a water tap at about 25 cm height at one of • Alkaline conditions with pH around 8, appreciable
the broad sides and a drainage pipe fitted on the op- prevent contamination with green algae.
posite wall at the bottom. An overflow outlet is pro- • Stop adding water to the tanks only after a thick
vided at about 20 cm height above the drainage out- BGA mat is formed and allow the contents to dry
let. The length of the tanks can be manipulated but without draining the water.
width should not be increased. Provide a space of • When completely dry, the algal mat will form
about 1.0 m between the tanks for operational con- flakes which will separate out from rest of the soil.
venience. These flakes are collected, sun dried and packed in
• The four corners of the tank should be round. polythene bags.
• Spread 10 kg of soil and add 200 g of single super • Fill the tanks again with water, put fresh soil,
phosphate per tank. The soil should be loam and starter culture and super phosphate and repeat the
sandy loam and heavy type like clay. Light soil facili- process. Single harvest from a tank yields about 7-
tates formation of algal flakes which easily separate 10 kgs of soil based algal flakes.

Avoiding exposure to blue-green algal toxins. If washing dishes in untreated

blue-green algae surface water is unavoidable, rinsing with bottled wa-
ter may reduce possible residues. While we don’t know
Never drink untreated surface water, whether
if water containing low levels of blue-green algal tox-
or not algae blooms are present. Untreated
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ins could leave residues on dishes, taking this pre-

surface water may contain other bacteria, para-
caution may help reduce possible exposures. People,
sites or viruses, as well as algal toxins, that all
pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that
could cause illness if consumed. People not on
is discolored or has scums on the surface. Colors can
public water supplies should not drink surface
include shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or
water, even if it is treated, during an algal bloom
red. If contact does occur, wash with soap and water
because in-home treatments such as boiling
or rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove algae.
and disinfecting water with chlorine or UV and
water filtration units do not protect people from
Navratna Journal JAN-FEB 2008 Page : 64

• Instead of using the soil based starter culture, • Application of small quantity of phosphatic fertilizer
one can use laboratory grown liquid culture of rice after BGA inoculation accelerates the algal establish-
fields BGA to inoculate the tanks. Even the dominat- ment.
ing native BGA, directly collected from rice field can The above algal biofertilizer technology is rural
also be used. Recommendation for Field Applica- oriented technology for farmers resulting in low cost
tion production of rice. This is of particular significant to
• Broadcast the dried algal flakes on standing water the farmers of this region who are economically weak
at the rate of 10 to 20 kg per hectare ,one week after to invest on chemical Nitrogen fertilizer. Fields experi-
transplantation. The field should be kept water logged ment using algal inoculations at various location
for about ten days after inoculation to allow good showed promising results with respect to nitrogen
growth of BGA. saving and increased yield. Large scale production
• If nitrogen fertilizers are not being used, apply BGA of the soil based BGA biofertilizer has an income gen-
erating potential and can be taken as a profession for
the unemployed youths of this region.

Free floting BGA in rice

Mass cultivatuins of Blue

field of Western Orissa

Green Algae
microscopic structure
Blue Green Algae
in order to gain a benefit of 15-25 kg N/ha. Where
the nitrogenous fertilizers are used, keep the basal
dose unchanged and reduce the subsequent two ap- Goyal,S.K.1993.Algal Biofertilizer for vital soil and free
plications by half. This will save on the chemical fer- Nitrogen.Proc.Indian Natl.Sci.Acad.B.59:295-302.
Naik,H.K.;Sahu,J.K.and Adhikary,S.P.1996.Blue Green algae of
tilizers without affecting the yield. rice fields of Orissa state 11.Growth and Nitrogen fixing
• Apply BGA at least for 3-4 consecutive seasons to potential.Phykos, 35(1&2):111-118.
have the advantage of cumulative effect. Roger,P.A.and Kulasooriya.S.A.1980.Blue Green algae and
• The sun dried BGA inoculums packed in polythene rice,I.R.R.I..,Los Banos,Manila,Phillipines.pp.1-112.
Sahu,J.K.;Naik,H.K.and Adhikary,S.P. Blue Green algae of rice
bags can be stored at room temperature for at least fields of Orissa state 1.Distributional pattern in different
3 years without loss in the viability. agroclimatic zones. Phykos ,35(1&2):93-110.
• Recommended pest control measures and other Venkataraman,G.S.1981.Blue Green algae for rice production,a
crop management practices generally do not inter- manual for its promotion:FAO field documentation no.2(RAS/75/
004),FAO, Rome.pp.102.
fere with the establishment and activity of the BGA in
the field. T.F.College , Bargarh
Cyanobacterial toxins are the naturally Despite their name, blue-green algae
produced poisons stored in the cells of are not algae at all. They are a type of photo-
certain species of cyanobacteria. These toxins synthetic bacteria, called ‘cyanobacteria’, that rely on
fall into various categories. Some are known to sunlight for energy.Blue-green algae are present in
attack the liver (hepatotoxins) or the nervous almost all aquatic ecosystems, including creeks, riv-
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system (neurotoxins); others simply irritate the ers, lakes and wetlands. Individual cells are quite small,
skin. These toxins are usually released into water so bluegreen algae can be present in a water body
when the cells rupture or die. scientists are more without being visible. However, as environmental con-
concerned about hepatotoxins than neurotoxins, ditions become just right, algae numbers can start to
because neurotoxins are not considered to be increase rapidlyand blooms, or scums, become easily
as widespread as hepatotoxins in water supplies. visible across the water surface. The blooms range in
Very few cyanobacterial toxins have actually been colour from dark green to yellowish–brown and de-
isolated and characterized to date. Better velop a paintlike consistency as they dry out around
methods of detection are being developed to the water’s edge. A blue pigment may also be seen as
help us learn more about them, they dry.