The use of AM fungi in plant biotechnology differs from that of other beneficial soil micro-organisms because the fungi involved are obligate symbionts and therefore recalcitrant to pure culture. Thus specific procedures are required to culture and handle them; specific tools have to be developed and provided to biotechnological producers.
(a) Inoculum technology. Plant inoculation with AM fungi results in the formation of a mycorrhizosphere with selective consequences on other important soil micro-organisms. Therefore the use of AM fungi in plant production needs an appropriate inoculum technology compatible with that used for other beneficial soil micro-organisms. Development of second generation inocula, derived from mixing AM fungi with other inocula, is one such major activity. The use of such inocula will improve plant fitness, and soil aggregation and stability, so increasing yield by biological means. Some of the important issues related to AM biofertilizer commercialization and its long-term viability in the commercial sector are listed here.
(b) Inoculum registration. Concerns on ecological, biosafety, and bio-ethics demand the requirement for microbial inoculants to be approved and registered. There is need for a centralized government-regulated agency to provide the guidelines for AM fungi-specific standards of inoculum use.
(c) Quality control. Specific protocols for quality control of AM fungal inoculum need to be developed and standardized for application. This is essential not only as a guarantee for producers and users but also for the protection of ecosystems. This would help in quality management and assessment of inoculum potential with every batch of inocula produced. Quality control of commercial AM inoculum is extremely important for developing faith in the user community for its effectively potential. Unless this is achieved, the potential will remain unexplored among the other biofertilizers.
(d) Technology transfer. The product concept for AM fungal inoculum is particularly suitable for industries. Scaling up of production and use of AM fungal inoculum is only economically feasible for them if structures to run concerted field experiments is available. This needs to be offered by researchers working in the area through case studies in the areas of horticulture, fruit production, and revegetation of desertified ecosystems. In India, The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi has developed AM mass production technology, which was transferred to two leading industries, however, this is a small move for an agricultural country where economy is important and based on the yield production.
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