Introduction

Human society today demands the production of high quality food in a most sustainable way causing least damage possible to the environment. Expected benefits include increase in the efficiency of crop production, reduction in agrochemical inputs, and an evaluation of the safety and bioethical aspects in relation to public acceptability. High productivity agriculture exacts a high cost in terms of energy and the environment. Typically, fertilizer and pesticides are used at high levels in the intensive production of plants. More than 150 years of over cultivation with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides has left our soils depleted of the natural biota needed to facilitate the growth of crops. A less costly and nondestructive means of achieving high productivity rests on a establishment of the viable low input farming system. However, to implement such a plan, we must develop plant systems that can efficiently scavenge and utilize soil nutrients present at low levels. The judicious use of nature's own biofertilizers by their biotechnological applications appears to be a suitable answer to this problem. Role of biotechnology in sustainable agriculture can offer a great help towards modern agriculture improvement. In the present review, we have discussed the role of biotechnology, potential biofertilizers with special reference to mycorrhizal biofertilizers, their so far reported synergies, mycorrhizal potential and methodologies for its mass multiplication, different constraints in its commercialization and its future role in achieving sustainable agriculture.

Biotechnology has been defined as the integrated use of biological, physical, and engineering sciences to achieve technological application of biological systems. The goal of technological application implies a direct relevance to commercialization for mass multiplication of the invented bio-product so as to reach the masses. It is encouraging that both, government and industry are becoming more responsive to natural approaches to growing environmental problems. Individuals and organizations worldwide are coming to realize that excessive use of chemical fertilizers can negatively impact water quality and the environment as a whole. The joint effort, if addressed properly, may lead to a healthy environment for future generations.

Biofertilizers include environment-friendly fertilizers with organisms such as: (a) Rhizobium strains for legumes, (b) Azotobacter strains for nonlegume crops, (c) VAM strains for use in agriculture, horticulture, and plantation crops, and (d) phosphorus solubilizing bacteria (PSB)-phosphorus dissolving bacteria strains. Most common among these are symbiotic mycorrhiza, Rhizobium members and cyano-phyceae group, which deliver plant nutrition, disease resistance, and tolerance to adverse soil and climatic conditions. Biofertilizers also known as microbial inoculants may be involved in symbiotic and associative microbial activities with higher plants. They are natural mini-fertilizer factories that are an economical and safer source of plant nutrition and can increase agricultural production and improve soil fertility. They have great potential as a supplementary, renewable, and environment-friendly source of plant nutrients and are important components of any integrated plant nutrient system. Research on biofertilizers has focussed on biological N2 fixation, plant growth promoting bacteria (PGPR' B) and phosphorus solubilizing microbes (Hegde et al. 1999). Research and development activities involved in this demanding but unexplored field include microbiological, biochemical, serological, molecular, and ultrastructural techniques, followed by extensive field trials for crop testing before releasing them for agricultural use. During the last decade the phenomenal increase in the production and promotion of biofertilizers in agriculture has been the result of special attention given by the government and interest by entrepreneurs in setting up biofertilizer production facilities. Farmers have also realized the benefits of biofertilizers. For ensuring the rapid growth of biofertilizer usage, constant research support is critical, as it will provide the latest information on improvements of their production technology, applications under different agro-climatic conditions and help in standardizing handling and storage norms. The role of biofertilizers like arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in the growth and multiplication of crop plant can prove to be the most effective alternative to fertilizers for enhancing growth and biomass production. Its application has additional benefits like improved vigor and nutrient uptake, disease resistance, and drought tolerance. The economic surplus is used to assess the impact on the overall economic growth and its contribution to economic efficiency and environmental security.

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