Scientists at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos are working to develop the use of certain microbes as cheap but equally effective substitutes for chemical nitrogen fertilizer for maize.
Certain bacteria called Azospirillum, living within the roots of the wild pasture grass, Saccharum spontaneum L., have been found capable of converting nitrogen from the air into forms usable by the plant. After scientists artificially introduce the bacteria into maize, plants are able to satisfy their nitrogen needs. Field trials in different areas in the Philippines have proved that nitrogen fertilizer input can be reduced by as much as 30% - 70% when this bacteria is used.
Roots of the grass are collected along with the soil in which it grows. The bacteria is then isolated from the roots and grown in a medium containing maleate and succinate.
This microbial fertilizer, already available in packets, consists of the bacteria mixed with a carrier of peat and charcoal. Four packets plus a small quantity of chemical fertilizer is enough for one hectare.
For more information:
Dr. William Padolina
Univ. of Philippines