You are on page 1of 8

Moscow University Vestnik Moskovskogo

Soil Science Bulletin Universiteta. Pochvovedenie


Vol.50. No.2, pp.45-52. 1995 UDC 631.16:576.8

SOIL BIOLOGY

ON THEORETICAL SUBSTANTIATION OF THE USE


OF MICROBIAL FERTILIZERS
P. A. Kozhevin and S. S. Korchmaru

P o s s i b l e r e s t r i c t i o n s i n h e r e n t i n o b t a i n i n g s t a b l e p o s i t i v e effects f r o m c o n v e n -
tional bacterial fertilizers were considered. T h e u s e of a n a t u r a l microbial c o m -
p l e x e x t r a c t e d f r o m a f e r t i l e soil b y p h y s i c a l m e t h o d s w a s s u g g e s t e d a s a n a l t e r -
native. E x p e r i m e n t a l proof of the validity of t h e p r o p o s e d solution are provided.

The year 1897 can be regarded as an initial stage in the history of the application of microbial fertilizers.
After Beijerinck succeeded in isolating a pure culture of nodule bacteria, Nobbe and Hiltner produced and
put on sale Nitragin, a product containing nodule bacteria. Paradoxical as it is, microbial fertilizers were used
in many countries long before the world of microorganisms had been discovered; these fertilizers were applied
as the earth taken from under legumes on soils with low yield of leguminous crops. Along with Nitragin,
products based on cultures of various bacteria were broadly advertized (as Alinite containing putrifactive
bacteria). Microbial fertilizers were touted as t h e greatest discovery of the 20th century to boost crop
yields. The use of bacterial fertilizers dates back to 1911, when Bacteriological and Agricultural Station in
Moscow and Agricultural and Bacteriological Laboratory in St. Petersburg s t a r t e d producing Nitragin. By
that time it became obvious t h a t microbial fertilizers were far from being always efficient (Rudakov et al.,
1938).
No serious analysis of restrictions and failures had been carried out, due to the absence of reliable
methods of identification and enumeration of microbial populations under n a t u r a l conditions, on one hand,
and a trend towards the search for new microorganisms with a higher efficiency, on the other. T h i s approach
broadened the scope of microorganisms which could be of interest from the viewpoint of t h e efficiency of
their agricultural use (Lynch, 1987). Currently, promising results obtained in t h e field of gene engineering
regarding the possibilities of the development of new microorganisms to make a revolution in agriculture
aroused deep interest among the specialists. T h e only impediment could be the necessity of the analysis of
adverse implications (Tiedje et al., 1989). The problem related to the estimation of possible risks has not
been solved so far (Kozhevin, 1994; Zvyagintsev, Kozhevin, 1994); however, this most obvious (though far
from being the only one) restriction does not prevent the emergence of promising genetic projects.
History develops in a spiral making geneticists think of expectations which were engulfing people at
the turn of the century. Despite considerable endeavors being m a d e by a great number of researchers, the
problem related to the use of microbial fertilizers is still far from being solved. Therefore, nearly 100 years
after the beginning of the use of microbial fertilizers to increase crop yield, quite urgent would be an attempt
at ecological analysis of the problem with possible potentialities and restrictions to be revealed.
T h e very history of the application of microorganisms as fertilizers showed t h a t similar effects were
recorded in using diverse populations with varying biological and technological potentials. In this respect,
quite reasonable would be a trend towards studies of a group of "plant growth stimulators" comprising
not only nitrogen fixers (as nodule bacteria, azotobacter, azospirillum), mycorrhiza, and other microorgan-
isms providing plants with phosphorus, nitrogen, and other elements, but also microorganisms forcing out
undesirable populations with phytopathogenic and phytotoxic effect from the rhizosphere (Shippers et al.,

1995 by Allerton Press. Inc.

45
Basing on the information available doubts may arise as to the usefulness of microbial fertilizers, the
more so, as yield increments are not always statistically significant and usually do not exceed 15%.However,
in our opinion, the potentials of microbial fertilizers are far from being exhausted. The doubing of the yield
in some cases may serve as a proof of this assertion. The main problem to be solved is instability of effects
and relevant restrictions.
The search and development of new microorganisms with a high level of useful characteristics using
gene engineering technique is very important, but they have certain restrictions researchers should be aware
of. Hopes for successful solution of all problems of introduction using genetic methods are not justified. B
analogy one can speak of an unfeasible design of an aircraft which could be the fastest, the lightest, having
the highest carrying capacity, reaching the highest altitude, being the most reliable and cheapest. A real
design will always be a compromise due to existing restrictions, with the final combination of characteristics
of even relatively simple designs to become clear only after testing.
With the entire diversity of concept of ecological strategies of microorganisms being the case, the main
idea is that a population cannot maximize simultaneously parameters related to r- and K-selection due
the principle of preservation (limited elasticity) (Kozhevin, 1980). An introduction of additional genetic
information into a cell will inevitably have an effect on the ecological strategy; in some cases it will decrease
its competitiveness (e.g., plasmid as an intracell parasite in connection with additional expenditures for
biosynthesis), in other cases, may increase the risk of undesirable implications (Kozhevin, 1992).

46