The novel Mycorrhizal technology created by Dr Alok Adholeya and his
team at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) New Delhi has made a
significant foray in creating agricultural transformation. In this part
of the CSO series BioSpectrum meets up with Dr Alok Adholeya to
understand the technology and its applications.
In an agriculture
dependent country like India where there are large tracts of barren
land, the mycorhizzal technology can change the topography. From the
reclamation of abandoned fly ash dumps and dump yards contaminated with
chlor alkali sludge to food and fodder crops in saline wastelands
organically, this technology has proven to be highly effective.
With utilization of this technology at the basic level, agricultural
investments can be significantly controlled. Its use in forestry and
agricultural activities can reduce chemical load into the system
significantly and make the production cost effective.
Mycorrhiza is the only known fungal system categorized as a
biofertilizer. It helps the roots to tap soil nutrients, which are
otherwise beyond their reach. However, its application is limited owing
to constraints related to mass inoculum production. The Centre for
Mycorrhizal Research (CMR) at TERI solved the problem by developing
mass inoculum production technology for AM (arbuscular mycorrhizal)
fungi. Initiated by Dr Alok Adholeya, in 1991 the project
received impetus in 1993—with the funding of around $2 mn (
10 crore) from Department of
Biotechnology (DBT), India, the technology reached commercialization
point in 2000. Since then it continues to be the only such available
technology in the world.
This technology has exploited the genetically modified host roots using
Agrobacterium rhizogenes, carrying Ri T-DNA plasmid to mass produce
viable, healthy, genetically pure, and high quality fungal propagules
without any pathogenic contamination under in vitro sterile
The CMR Area’s Mycorrhizal organic fertilizers offer sustainable and
environment-friendly solutions to most of the cultivated plants and
crops. It is said to enhance nutrition and yields upto 25 percent and
curtail the chemical fertilizer inputs by 50 percent. Fertilizers are
also effective in wasteland reclamation, and offer benefits to
agricultural, forestry, horticulture, and bio-diesel plants.
According to Dr Alok Adholeya, who has led this development the farmers
generally use Rhizobium for all the crops while it can be used for
around 85 percent of the total crops in India. They are ignorant about
the fact that it cannot be used everywhere. With this technology, both
the existing and the remaining 15 percent can be covered. Dr Adholeya
is the director, Biotechnology & Management of Bioresources
Division at the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi.
Dr Adholeya who bets on its cost effectiveness. “This cost effective
safe technology on the higher side can save about 30-50 percent per
acre in forestry and approximately 25-50 percent per acre in
agriculture,” he says.
The Mycorrhizal product formulations developed by the CMR according to
each type of plant and kind of implementation are tablets, granules,
gels, dry spray, seed coating, seed inoculation, root dipping and
irrigation system compatible. The wide applications of the technology
include the phytostablization which revives soil where pesticide-use
frequency is high. It revives disturbed and degraded soil, prevents
erosion, prevents removal of top soil and also enables greening of
desert areas thanks to reclamation technologies. More than 90 percent
of all plants in nature can form a symbiotic association with the
Mycorrhizal application to Jatropa was found to speed up the process of
flowering and fruiting, and the first yield was after seven months of
cultivation. This technique also leads to higher yield (upto 30
percent) and plant biomass. This is an innovative way to manage
effluent disposal in the country employing Microbial Remediation
Technology (MRT) to reclaim one of the distillery effluent loaded site
in Madhya Pradesh. The technology employs Mycorrhiza and a few other
useful microbes to restore the greenery of the land. It alleviates the
loading of effluent in unit land area, lowers the level of groundwater
contamination, and reduces land pollution of adjoining agricultural
The CMR has developed the reclamation technology based on Mycorrhiza
organo-biofertilizer for fly ash, which is promising enough to
metamorphose the 30,000 odd hectares of fly ash dumps in India into
huge commercial plantations. Besides that the toxic wastelands created
by the alkali-chlor sludge were successfully reclaimed.
The technology was transferred to many industries and resulted in the
development of the commercialized product, which is available to end
users. The mass production of Mycorrhiza Biofertilizer catered to
Cadila Pharamceuticals, Ahmedabad in December 2000 and to KCP Sugar and
Industries Corporation, India, in February 2001. Besides that the
improved technology of mass production of Mycorrhiza Biofertilizer was
supplied to Cadila in May 2001. Mycorrhiza Consortium Production was
done for KCP Sugars and Industries, Andhra Pradesh, in 2005; Magestic
Biotech, New Delhi, in 2004, Cosme Pharma, Goa in 2005 and to Sarita
Ganga Farms, Ahmedabad in 2006.
Also for the reclamation of industry created wastelands, the
beneficiaries of the technologies are National Thermal Power
Corporation, Tata Chemicals, Fly Ash Mission, TIFAC, Madhya Bharat
Papers, Associated Alcohols and Breweries all based in the country.
Dr Alok Adholeya got his doctorate from the department of microbiology,
G.B Pant, University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar and
Jiwaji University, Gwalior, India which he completed in the year 1988.
Prior to that, after doing his Master’s in Botany from Jiwaji
University in 1984, he worked at Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI),
New Delhi for couple of years from August 1986.
His research interests include the soil fertility, soil and plant
microbiology, nutrient cycling, bioremediation using microbes and
plants, mass production of Mycorrhizae biofertilizer using transformed
root organ cultures.
Dr Adholeya is well versed with mycorrhizal isolation, charactrization
(both morphological and molecular), inoculation, colonization
assessments and efficiency tests. He also has working experience of
soil and plant analysis methodologies. He has a practical experience of
field trial evaluation, designing and management, transformation
techniques, enzyme assays, Radio tracer techniques and a fair knowledge
of statistical analysis of data.
Recipient of numerous awards for developing this technology, Dr
Adholeya has been a well known name in this field now. He was presented
a momento of honor by then Minister of Science & Technology, Dr
Murali Manohar Joshi for mycorrhiza technology on in 2000. He also
received ‘Paryavaran Sanrakshan Samman’ in the year 1999 by then Chief
Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Ajit Jogi. He was awarded by Bhoomi
Nirman, Agricultural and Rural Development monthly newspaper for his
significant contributions in biotechnological applications in rural
areas. He was also honored with the Best Paper Award on
Environmental Applications in the VIIth World Bamboo Congress in
February 2004 at New Delhi.
But among all of the honors and awards received so far, Dr Adholeya
feels proud to have received the honor by Department of Biotechnology,
Ministry of Science and technology on Technology Day in 2004. DBT
recognized his efforts awarded him with the prestigious “Biotech
Product & Process Development and Commercialization Award, 2004”
Besides being the chief editor of Mycorrhiza News, Dr Adholeya is a
member of editorial boards of many national and international journals.
Few of those include the International Mycorrhiza Journal, published by
Springer Verleg, Germany, as the only Asian in the editorial board.
Swedish Journal of Agriculture, a reputed international journal of
Agriculture published by TAYLOR & FRANCIS group. Indian Journal on
Micribiology, published by the Association of Microbiologists of India,
IARI, India. Biology and Fertility of Soils Journal, published by
Dr Adholeya who has attended 80 conferences and seminars so far, has
around 58 publications in international referred journals and 22
publications in national journals. Besides guiding nine PhD students,
he has also authored a book on Production and Technology of
Biodiseal-Seeding a Change. He has been a visiting faculty of Deakin
University, Australia since March 2010.
He is the member of numerous expert groups and societies. Such as the
World Bank Biofertilizer Programme and Indian Council of Forestry
Research and Education.
Dr Adholeya is also a member of a large number of expert
groups/societies, DBT, Ministry of Science and technology, New Delhi;
Member, Inter-disciplinary research committee (IDRC); DBT Member,
Program Advisory committee (PAC) for Fly Ash Unit; DST Member, Science
and Society; DST Indian Council of Forestry research and Education;
Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi; Department of
Biotechnology; Indian Council of Agriculture Research; Ministry of
Non-Conventional Energy Sources, New Delhi; and Department of
Environment, New Delhi.
Besides being a part of the World Bank Biofertilizer Programme, Dr
Adholeya has been a member of International Foundation for Science,
Sweden; Food and Agriculture Organization,Thailand; Technical Advisory
Committee of Mycorrhizae Network Asia; Mycological Society of America,
New York, USA; British Mycological Society, UK; Society of Biological
Editors, USA; Chairman, Task Force-Biofertilizers; Member, Advisory
Board, International Risk Governance Council (IRGC)
Dr Adholeya who is also on the European Network for Mycorhizzal
technology, says “ Europeans have been fast to adopt this technology.
India has to gear up and learn a lot from them.”
The current research activities in his lab include the evaluation of
this technology for the different cropping system in India and
worldwide. These include the ones in agriculture, horticulture and
forestry, essentially the crops such as sugarcane, wheat, various
vegetables, pomegranate and jatropa.
The continuous efforts are on to better this technology. How it can be
utilized for different purposes is being evaluated.
In the words of Dr Adholeya, “My mission is to make the end user happy
and the vision is to develop this technology towards offering the one
stop-solution to the farmer.”
in New Delhi