Microbial Biotechnology Research Programme
Taking an ecofriendly approach to Sri Lankan Agriculture
The microbial biotechnology research program (MBRP) investigates the applications of developed microbial biofilms (DMB) in agriculture, ecosystems and environment, and medicine.
The MBRP has developed biofilm-based biofertilizers i.e. Biofilm biofertilizers (BFBF), especially for non-legumes, e.g. tea, rice, vegetables, etc., which were tested extensively under field conditions, and commercialized in 2014. With the development of the concept of BFBF in 2002, research studies were started to evaluate the potential of the BFBF formulations as a microbial ameliorator in agroecosystems and the environment. Current studies are centered on the agricultural, health, and environmental benefits of using DMB.
The MBRP also conducts research to develop biofilm medicines/nutraceuticals (BFN) as next-generation medicine, and several industrially important applications using DMB.
Why does this matter ?
The BFBF had been used in about 285,000 acres (over 16% of total paddy cultivation) in the country by 2022. As a result, the use of environmentally harmful chemical fertilizers (CF) NPK has been cut down by up to 50% while increasing grain quality, yield, and soil carbon sequestration by up to 20-30%. We have also seen great farmer-friendliness with the BFBF in organic agriculture in our country because only 200 kg/ac of BFBF is sufficient instead of 4000 kg/ac of compost recommended by DOA, SL for farming with GAP. Our studies indicate the importance of microbial community-based biofilms in increasing soil and plant parameters to ensure higher yields and increase the sustainability of rice agroecosystems depleted due to conventional agricultural practices. This biotechnology has improved and diversified applications in sustainable agriculture. The BFBFs are both cost-effective and environment-friendly and render numerous biochemical and physiological benefits to plant growth and improve soil and grain quality. As a contribution to nature, the BFBF restores microbial biodiversity and improves ecosystem functioning.
A characteristic feature of DMB is that they can be used in contrasting ecosystems, because it has been reported that, once applied, they increase microbial diversity and abundance, thus leading to improved functioning and sustenance of any managed or natural ecosystem, including the human body. In fact, the BFBF and BFN possibly offer solutions to restore agroecosystems degraded due to tillage and excessive use of chemical inputs, and human body ecosystem degraded due to modern lifestyle and dietary habits including the use of antibiotics and processed foods with low fiber content, respectively. Thus, cross-disciplinary research of agriculture, ecology, and medicine has been conducted by the MBRP to understand the holistic ecosystem approach of using DMB for remediating degraded, contrasting ecosystems. Such studies may indicate the possibility of applying the developed biofilms, thus relating the above three disciplines.