Phosphate and nitrogen are important for plant growth. These compounds exist naturally in the environment but plants have a limited ability to extract them. Phosphate is abundant in the soil but remains mostly bound, and nitrogen is abundant in the air. Phosphate plays an important role in crop stress tolerance, maturity, quality and directly or indirectly, in nitrogen fixation. If phosphate is not quickly used by the plant, it becomes locked into the soil through chemical reactions. This leaves only a small amount of this vital nutrient available to the plant. The plant cannot unlock phosphate by itself.
A fungus called Penicillium bilaii is the rootsí key to unlock phosphate from the soil. It makes an organic acid which dissolves the phosphate in the soil so that the roots can use it. A biofertilizer made from this organism is applied either by coating seeds with the fungus (called inoculation), or putting it directly into the ground where the plantís roots will live.
The friendly fungus can wrap itself around the root, and prevent other less helpful organisms from living there. It has the first chance to use the plantís byproducts. This will make the microbe stronger, and able to convert more phosphate for the roots to use. With additional phosphate, the plants will be stronger and more productive.
Another example of an organism that is used to make biofertilizers is the bacterium Rhizobium. This bacterium lives on the plantís roots in cell collections called nodules. The nodules are biological factories that can take nitrogen out of the air and convert it into an organic form that the plant can use. Because the bacteria live within the roots, it transfers the nutrient directly into the plant.
This fertilization method has been designed by nature. With a large population of the friendly bacteria on its roots, the legume can use naturally-occurring nitrogen instead of the expensive traditional nitrogen fertilizer.
Biofertilizers help plants use all of the food available in the soil and air thus allowing farmers to reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers they use. This helps preserve the environment for the generations to come.
NitroPlus, Bio-N and BIO-Fix are some Philippine examples of bio fertilizers that utilize the ability of microorganisms like rhizobia to fix free nitrogen. Other products like Mycogroe and Mykovam help plants absorb water and phosphorus from the soil. The mycorrhizal fungi that colonizes the roots of plants prevent further infections by pathogens and make plants more tolerant to drought and heavy metals. BIO-Quick, a composting inoculum, helps hasten the decomposition of farm and agro-industrial wastes by as much as 80%.