Selecting high performance N2-fixing cyanobacteria for agricultural soil amendment and biofilm formation

Xin Peng and Mary Ann Bruns
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, The Pennsylvania State University.

Presented at the All Scientists Meeting (2015-04-15 to 2015-04-16 )

Cyanobacteria are the principal microorganisms responsible for nitrogen fixation in biological soil crusts (BSCs). Direct application of N2-fixing cyanobacteria to agricultural soils could promote the development of BSCs forincreased biological N2fixation, enhanced soil stability, and reduced nutrient losses. Here we describe a system to select and evaluate cyanobacteria for their ability to form biofilms on soils. Cyanobacteria from local BSCs and commercial strains were tested on soils in laboratory microcosms under nitrogen-limited conditions. Biomass densities and stabilities of these BSCs were measured during the evaluation. The results show that BSCs formed by “Mixture DG” – a cyanobacterial enrichment obtained from local agricultural soil – have both high biomass density and crust stability, indicating good potential for use as a soil biofilm amendment. This protocol has yielded a high-performance candidate for future cyanobacterial applications and confirmed the utility of the evaluation system for selecting effective soil cyanobacteria as possible soil amendments.

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