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Azolla is an aquatic heterosporous fern which contains an endophytic cyanobacterium,

Anabaena azollae, in its leaf cavity. The significance of Azolla as biofertilizer in rice field was
realized in Vietnam. Recently, it has become very popular in China, Indonesia, Philippines, India
and Bangladesh.

A total of six species of Azolla are known so far viz., A. caroliniana, A. filiculoides, A.
mexicana, A. microphylla, A. nilotica, A. pinnata and A. rubra. Out of these A. pinnate is
commonly found in India. The global collections of several species of Azolla are maintained at
CRRI (Cuttack). Within the leaf cavity filaments of Anabaena azollae are present. Dr. P.K. Singh,
at CRRI has done an outstanding work on mass cultivation of Azolla and its use as biofertilizer in
rice and other crop fields.

Mass cultivation of Azolla

Microplots (20 m2) are prepared in nurseries in which sufficient water (5-10 cm) is added.
For good growth of Azolla, 4-20 Kg P2O5/ha is also amended. Optimum pH (8.0) and temperature
(14-30C) should be maintained. Finally, microplots are inoculated with fresh Azolla (0.5 to 0.4
Kg/ m2). An insecticide (furadon) is used to check the attack of insects. After three, week of growth
mat formed by Azolla is harvested and the same microplot is inoculated with fresh Azolla to repeat
the cultivation.

Mass cultivation of Azolla in India.

Azolla mat is harvested and dried to use as green

manure. There are two methods for its application in
field: (a) incorporation of Azolla in soil prior to rice
plantation, and (b) transplantation of rice followed by
water draining and incorporation of Azolla (Singh,
1977, 1979, 1980). However, reports from the IRRI
(Philippines) reveal that growing of Azolla in rice
field before rice transplantation increased the yield
equivalent to that obtained from 30Kg N/ha as urea or ammonium phosphate.

Moreover, Azolla shows tolerance against heavy metals viz. As, Hg, Pb, Cu, Cd, Cr, etc.
It tolerates low concentration but at high levels a setback in biochemical pathways is caused. A.
pinnata absorbs heavy metals into cell walls and vacuoles through evolution of specific metal
resistant enzymes. Therefore, heavy metal resistant species such as A. pinnata can also be
incorporated as green manure in rice field near the polluted areas where heavy metal concentration
is between 0.01 and 1.5 mg/liter. Due to development of chemical industries and discharge of
effluents into water bodies, heavy metal concentration is gradually increasing day by day.
Industries where work of electroplanting, fertilizers, tanning, etc. are done, they act as a chief
source for soil and water pollution. For example, disturbed vegetation in aquatic system around
Damodar river valley in India has received a great attention.