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New biotechnologies for agriculture and gardeners have been developed at UW

EDUCATIONNew biotechnologies for agriculture and gardeners have been developed at UW

Scientists from the UW Department of Biology plan to provide farmers, plant breeders and the horticultural industry with new solutions. These are biopreparations based on compositions of bacterial and fungal strains and their metabolites. They are designed to naturally restore microbiological balance in soils, accelerate carbon cycling, act as antifungal agents, and facilitate plant access to elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and iron.

The new biotechnologies – biopreparations were created as a result of research projects conducted in recent years under the direction of Dr. Klaudia Dębiec-Andrzejewska and Dr. Kumar Pranaw from the Institute of Microbiology, Department of Biology UW. The team of scientists has developed a range of solutions, such as biofertilizers, biostimulants and soil regenerators. These solutions have been tested for potential application and functionality, creating a certain perspective for making them available for practical use in agriculture, horticulture or industry. Currently, the new technologies are in the certification phase, which will enable their introduction to the market in the near future.

“We have developed a series of biopreparations that can significantly support farmers, gardeners and individual plant breeders. As researchers, we don’t want to just publish scientific papers, we want to ensure that these discoveries find applications in the wider agricultural industry” – explains Klaudia Dębiec-Andrzejewska from the Department of Biology UW, who is finalizing one of the scientific projects.

Teams of biologists at UW simultaneously studied the properties of various types of soil bacterial and fungal strains, including endemic strains, found only in specific climate zones – e.g. in Antarctica. Most of the studied strains exist in difficult environmental conditions, such as in a mine or in a desert. In stages of evolutionary adaptation, they developed features and properties that allow them to survive, which from the point of view of plant breeders may be desirable or useful. This is what UW researchers focused on when developing new solutions. Some of the developed solutions have broader applications. Scientists have also developed microbiological products for industry. They can accelerate composting efficiency or sewage sludge utilization.

The scientists stress that current artificial fertilization of crops is no longer sufficient to achieve the expected yields in industry. Farmers are forced to seek a compromise between the amount of increasingly expensive artificial fertilizers and what they finally achieve at the harvesting stage. At the same time, intensive agriculture systematically leads to soil degradation, reducing their richness in beneficial bacteria and fungi, which subsequently necessitates increasing fertilization in subsequent cultivation cycles. Therefore, preparations based on natural ingredients, which can relatively quickly restore the microbiological homeostasis of soils, are highly desirable.

Another example of biotechnology developed at UW is a preparation composed of beneficial bacterial strains, which limits the development of phytopathogens – especially fungi from the Fusarium family. After applying a preparation to the soil that contains beneficial bacteria and fungi, they multiply intensively, then strongly compete with phytopathogens for resources, effectively inhibiting and reducing their development. Scientists have found that in preventive antifungal treatments, 2 to 3 liters of preparation per hectare of crops is sufficient to achieve the desired effectiveness.

Similar to the case of another biotechnology developed at UW, which is based on the by-products of bacterial metabolism. UW’s team of scientists isolated the metabolites of microorganisms, then studied their effect on plants and soil microbiota.

The presented research results were developed as part of the Leader XI scientific program (financed by the National Centre for Research and Development) led by Klaudia Dębiec-Andrzejewska and as part of the TEAM-NET project, financed by the Polish Science Foundation, led by Kumar Pranaw. The scientists from the UW Faculty of Biology decided that several years of research work had brought so many promising results that it was worth sharing them with the outside world.

The scientists emphasize that the new biopreparations fit into the current challenges facing the agro-industry. The University of Warsaw has a rich repository of microorganism strains, a significant part of which are its own strains, isolated during research conducted at the university. It is also worth noting that thanks to the use of extremotolerant strains, including psychrotolerant ones, the developed biopreparations can be used in the Polish climate zone already from March, and the introduced strains will do well in it.

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