In 2016-17, TERI set up the world's biggest facility for mycorrhiza production in Gual Pahadi in Gurugram, Haryana.
Mycorrhiza is a fungal system that forms a symbiotic relationship with plant roots and helps them tap nutrients from soil that would otherwise have been inaccessible to them. This helps plants get better uptake of phosphorus, nitrogen and other micronutrients and even enables them to thrive in nutrient-deficient soil. Mycorrhiza is thus also used in land reclamation exercises.
TERI's Centre for Mycorrhizal Research (CMR) has successfully translated the nutrient-tapping potential of this system and developed a technology that eventually produces mycorrhizae-based biofertiliser.
The facility in Gurugram has a production capacity of over 600 billion propagules per annum, which can be expanded to 1,000 billion propagules per annum in two years. Spread over 414 square metres of floor area, has the potential of benefitting 1.2 million hectares or more of farmland. It is also equipped with the best class systems, equipment, and hardware based on next generation technology.
TERI's work in this field goes back a few decades. Its Centre for Mycorrhizal Culture Collection (CMCC), which is a Mycorrhizal Bioresources Centre managing a next-generation germplasm bank, came up as part of the Mycorrhiza Network set up in TERI in 1988 with seed support from International Development Research Centre (IDRC). It was later supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.
Today, the centre houses 2,800 isolates of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) and 285 cultures of Ectomycorrhizal Fungi (EMF) collected from various soil types in India and abroad.
The facility also supports in vitro mass production technology that produces healthy, genetically pure, and high-quality mycorrhizal propagules without any pathogenic contamination.
In times of increasing pressure on land and depleting soil health, mycorrhiza potential as a biofertiliser might provide a boost to sustainable agriculture practices.