National Institute of Fundamental Studies

Project Description

Microorganisms are generally perceived as harmful although less than 1% of their species are pathogenic. The Microbial Biotechnology Unit (MBU) conducts basic research to make use of beneficial microbes to:

  • Improve and sustain soil fertility
  • Develop low cost technologies for bio-fuel production
  • Mitigate emission of greenhouse gases and enhance carbon sequestration by the soil

The novelty of our studies revolves around the development of microbial biofilms which are communities of beneficial microorganisms that live together in a common mucilaginous matrix and function as a single multi functional unit. An important feature of these research activities is the development of microbial biotechnologies that will impact positively on national development.

Biofilm-based biofertilizers (BFBFs)

Current projects in progress on BFBFs are: development and field testing of BFBFs for tea. This has progressed well and we are hopeful of introducing this technology to the tea industry in the near future once the Tea Research Institute make its recommendations after the collaborative research done with it are completed. The use of BFBFs has been found to be able to reduce chemical fertilizer use by about 50% in tea.

Research is also in progress to extend the use of BFBFs to other crops like rice, rubber, legumes, maize etc. Reduced use of chemical fertilizers has several advantages such as reduction of fertilizer imports, minimizing environmental pollution, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing soil carbon sequestration.

Group Leader: Prof. Gamini Seneviratne

Research Group

Visiting Research Professor

Prof. S.A. Kulasooriya

curriculum vitae »

Research Assistant

Ms. Mihiri Seneviratne

curriculum vitae »

Chief Technical Officer

Ms. R.C.K. Karunaratne

Work Assistant

Mr. A. Lal

Research Facilities

  1. Well-equipped laboratory facilities for the isolation and incubation of microorganisms isolated from different sources (e.g. soils and plants), and for formulating them as biofilms.
  2. Laboratory and greenhouse facilities for evaluating plant growth promotion and soil nutrient management of developed biofilms after their soil application.
  3. Equipment used: Gas Chromatograph, CHN analyzer, Kjeldhal analyzer

Research Colloboration

  1. Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI) Testing field efficacy of developed BFBFs in up country, mid country and low country tea in Sri Lanka for the eventual commercialization.
  2. Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka (RRI) Testing efficacy of developed BFBFs under nursery conditions of rubber in Sri Lanka, for the eventual commercialization.
  3. Sugarcane Research Institute of Sri Lanka (SRI) Developing biofilm-based sugarcane trash decomposition methods for improving crop residue management.
  4. Plenty Foods (Pvt.) Ltd. Field testing grain legumes and cereals (soybean, maize, green gram, groundnut etc.) with.
  5. Sri Lanka Agricultural Research and Development Institute (SARD, a local NGO) Field testing BFBFs with vegetables in home gardens.
  6. Royal Botanic Garden Evaluation of the effectiveness of developed biofilms to increase the survival of tissue cultured Orchid plantlets during acclimatization.

Achievements of the Project

  1. Pilot project of producing BFBFs for tea in view of eventual commercialization was started in October 2012.
  2. Development of quality control (QC) methods for the final product of BFBFs was started in January 2013 in collaboration with the University of Sydney, Australia
  3. For field level QC of BFBFs, island-wide extensive field evaluations with many crops in agriculture and plantations were started through the collaborations of government and private sector organizations.
- Information provided by the Group Leader -