Deakin leads under-earth revolution

30 January 2013

Awards highlight advances in food security.

Two of the TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre's talented young students, Shivani Srivastava and Leena Johny, have been honoured at the 7th International Conference on Mycorrhiza (ICOM7) held in New Delhi in January.

Leena Johny won the Ultimate Mycorrhiza Application for Harnessing Agriculture Resources Integration (UMAHARI) Award for her poster.

Shivani Srivastava won the Biotisa Prize for her poster dealing with the application of mycorrhizas.

From the Greek words, mycor and rhiza literally means fungus root.

They define the mutually beneficial relationship between the plant and root fungus. These specialised fungi colonise plant roots and extend far into the soil.

Mycorrhizal fungal filaments in the soil are extensions of root systems and are more effective in nutrient and water absorption than the roots themselves. More than 90 per cent of plant species in natural areas form a symbiotic relationship with the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi.

Tillage, removal of topsoil, erosion, poisoning and the invasion of weeds are all common events that can reduce, even eliminate beneficial soil fungi.

In agriculture, re-introducing mycorrhizal fungi can considerably increase plant performance and reduce the need for water and fertiliser – a crucial part of future food security around the world.

The theme of the New Delhi conference was: "Mycorrhiza for All: An Under-Earth Revolution."

The conference also aimed to be the “epicentre of a new revolution that our planet is in dire need of … a change that would help minimise the usage of chemical fertiliser on soil and hence leave the least environmental footprint”.

The UMAHARI Award was made possible at the conference by Dr Alok Adholeya, The Director of the Nanobiotechnology Research Centre in New Delhi, a partnership between Deakin University and TERI, The Energy Research Institute of India.

The Nanobiotechnology Research Centre has as some of its key goals rehabilitating wastelands and increasing food security.

“Both these awards are highly meritorious and do amply recognise the quality of work that is being carried out in the Centre,” Dr Adholeya said.

“There were approximately 200 posters presented during the conference which was attended by more than 400 people from 48 different countries.

“The judging was done by 15 internationally acclaimed researchers.”

Professor Peter Hodgson, the Director of Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM), also congratulated Shivani Srivastava and Leena Johny.

“The work we are doing with TERI will have a real impact on the lives of people around the world in terms of providing better and more secure sources of nutrition,” he said.

“The Centre is still in its early days and to have this sort of recognition now is heartening indeed.

“So well done to Shivani and Leena from everyone at Deakin.”

Dr Alok Adholeya (centre) looks on proudly as Leena Johny (right) is presented with her prize. Dr Alok Adholeya (centre) looks on proudly as Leena Johny (right) is presented with her prize.

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