Agriculture and other natural resource-based enterprises are the foundation for economic growth in many Asian countries. Of the 11 per cent of the world’s land surface that is suitable for agriculture, 38 per cent has been degraded due to poor natural resource management practices. With no significant room to expand areas of cultivation, a good management of the available land is necessary to maintain agricultural productivity, ensure economic growth, protect biodiversity, and meet the increasing food demands of a growing global population. Sustainable agriculture integrates environmental health, economic viability and social equity to ensure long-term productivity of natural resources and improved livelihoods. It helps reduce the risks in developing countries of complex problems like climate variability and climate change. Conventional agriculture which involves high-yielding plants, mechanized tillage, inorganic fertilizers and biocides is so detrimental to the environment. For instance, fertilizer run-off from conventional agriculture is the chief culprit in creating dead zones with low oxygen where marine life cannot survive. The challenge of enhancing productivity while maintaining environmental soundness calls for educating farmers; emphasizing the long-term consequences of their traditional methods of agriculture; and helping them develop and implement innovative, appropriate farming practices.
Excessive and indiscriminate use of agrochemicals has undeniably resulted in negative impact and sometimes irreparable damage to the environment. Once fertile soils have become acidic due to heavy chemical fertilizer application. In the same way, reliability on chemical pesticides to manage pest problems has aggravated environmental ruins.
It is in this context that bio-alternatives or bio-agents, such as bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides, (PGPR) are considered as viable options. Scientists across the world have been researching on suitable and effective PGPR as among the strategies to raising crop productivity levels. In Asian countries, PGPR technologies are now at various stages of development and utilization. For successful sustainable agriculture; basic, applied and strategic research must focus on the identification of potential PGPR screening, characterization and cataloguing the strains for their desirable traits; enhancement of potential strains, and understanding the mechanism of action of these PGPR to harness their optimum potential. Thrust also must be laid on development of cheap and viable mass multiplication protocols; identify suitable carrier systems; develop methods for prolonged shelf-life; work out the economics to demonstrate the usefulness of the PGPR; develop effective communication methods to disseminate the technology among the end-users to get feed-back and refine technology. To bridge these gaps, strategies should be thought of by forming consortia to work in a collaborative mode and build new partnerships. Also concerted approach among various stakeholders is required on research and development aspects and positive policy interventions to promote these inputs.
PGPR (Biofertilizers & Biofungicides) are Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria defined as root- colonizing bacteria that exert beneficial traits on plant growth and development. Root colonization comprises the ability of PGPR to establish on or in the root or rhizosphere to multiply, survive and colonize along the growing root in the presence of the indigenous microflora. PGPR are considered as efficient microbial competitors in the soil-root zone. Genera of PGPR generally include Acinetobacter, Agrobacter, Arthrobacter, Azospirillum, Bacillus, Bradyrhizobium, Frankia, Pseudomonas, Rhizobium, Serratia, Thiobacillus, and others. In addition to plant growth-promotion, PGPR are also used for controlling several plant pathogens, enhancement of nutrient up-take and in rhizomediation. PGPR colonize plant roots and exert beneficial effects on plant growth and development by a wide variety of mechanisms. To be an effective PGPR, bacteria must be able to colonize roots because bacteria need to establish itself in the rhizosphere at population densities sufficient to produce the beneficial effects. The exact mechanism by which PGPR stimulate plant growth is not clearly established, although several hypotheses such as production of phyto-hormones, suppression of deleterious organisms, activation of phosphate solubilization and promotion of the mineral nutrient uptake are usually believed to be involved.
In the context of increasing international concern for food and environmental quality, the use of PGPR for reducing chemical inputs in agriculture is a potentially important issue. PGPR have gained world- wide importance and acceptance for sustainable agricultural benefits. PGPR’s are the potential tools for future of sustainable agriculture. Currently, there is an active and growing group of researchers working on fundamental and applied aspects of PGPR. The application and commercialization of PGPR for sustainable agriculture is a growing and demanding market world-wide.
About Asian PGPR Society
The Asian PGPR Society of Sustainable Agriculture is a scientific society that was formed as a non-profit organization in the United States of America to enable scientists, researchers, academicians, government groups, students, farmers, and industry personnel etc. from various agricultural disciplines to meet and discuss their common interests in teaching, research and commercialization of PGPR in Asian countries. Asian PGPR Society has more than 1100 members and the Society is entirely run by volunteers. Asian PGPR meetings are a great opportunity to keep up with recent developments in many specialized areas. It provides a golden opportunity to harvest the latest ideas, areas of research & development, and global crop intelligence – all of which are vital for anyone involved in the rapidly changing global crop production industry.