Algal biofertilizers are easy to develop, solar powered, sustainable, and beneficial for the soil, farmer, consumer and planet. Cyanobacteria are natural components of soil; they are supposed to be part of the equation, as opposed to harsh chemicals like urea based products. These living microorganisms are the missing key to your agricultural endeavors; they have been proven to decrease reliance on fossil fuels, increase nutritional quality of crops, increase water use efficiency, increase crop yield, prevent weed growth, increase resistance to pests, stabilize soil aggregates and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. These little microscopic algae are a beautifully simple solution to every problem that we have been creating by abusing our ecosystems with chemical fertilizers.
Bhardwaj (2014) states that the introduction of “cyanobacteria and many other useful microscopic organisms led to improved nutrient uptake, plant growth and plant tolerance to abiotic and biotic stress...biofertilizers mediated crops functional traits such as plant growth and productivity, nutrient profile, plant defense and protection with special emphasis to its function to trigger various growth- and defense-related genes in signaling network of cellular pathways to cause cellular response and thereby crop improvement.”
Jessica Davis is the department head of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University and she has spent the past decade working on biofertilizers. Dr. Davis noted in a Ted Talk she gave in 2014 that chemical nitrogen fertilizers account for 2/3 of the carbon footprint of crop production while greenhouse gas emissions from algal biofertilizers are ⅓ that of common chemical fertilizers. Dr. Davis has also found promising results in the increase of nutritional quality in crops grown with algal biofertilizers; in one example she found apples grown with just algae had at least double the amount of vitamin A concentration than apples grown without algae.
Dr. Connelly from the University of Texas found that “The application of biofertilizers has been shown to decrease soil erosion, pest infestation, and water requirements, and improve soil tilth. The use of algae as a biofertilizer is particularly appealing for several reasons. Algae can be grown in arid areas that are unsuitable for traditional crops, can reclaim nutrients in waste streams, and can produce biofertilizer “crops” year round. Large scale growth of algae is accelerating and the Center for Electromechanics (CEM) at The University of Texas has developed cost-effective technologies to harvest and process algal biomass for use as animal feed or biofertilizer.”
Chatterjee (2017) stated in their article on algal biofertilizer that "Algae with ubiquitous occurrence in almost all terrestrial environments are one of the most characteristic organism on the Earth having potential application in nutrition as food supplements, in agriculture as biofertilizers and amelioration of sodic soils, in waste water treatment, and as source of biofuel. Filamentous, heterocystous, nitrogen fixing, photo- synthetic cyanobacteria (BGA) are part of tropical paddy field ecosystem assumed as an excellent source of global nitrogen economy of rice fields and embraced as better alternative to agrochemicals with significant economic and environmental benefits". Chatterjee continued to explain the benefits of algae in soil by noting that the "Key role played by cyanobacteria is maintenance and build-up of soil fertility, which further results in increasing rice growth and yield. The contributions of these algae include (1) enhancement in soil porosity by a group of cyanobacteria having filamentous structure and production of adhesive substances; (2) excretion of growth-promoting substances such as hormones (auxin, gibberellin), vitamins, and amino acids; (3) increase in water holding capacity through their jelly structure; (4) increase in soil biomass following their death and decomposition; (5) decrease in soil salinity; (6) prevention of weed growth; and (7) increase in soil phosphate by excretion of organic acids".
The benefits of cyanobacteria in soil are endless, for more information on algae in soil check out these articles!
Bhardwaj, Deepak et al. “Biofertilizers Function as Key Player in Sustainable Agriculture by Improving Soil Fertility, Plant Tolerance and Crop Productivity.” Microbial Cell Factories 13 (2014): 66. PMC.
Chatterjee, A. (2017). Role of Algae as Biofertilizer. 189-200.