Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 6608–6620 | Cite as

Exploring the efficacy of wastewater-grown microalgal biomass as a biofertilizer for wheat

  • Nirmal Renuka
  • Radha PrasannaEmail author
  • Anjuli Sood
  • Amrik S. Ahluwalia
  • Radhika Bansal
  • Santosh Babu
  • Rajendra Singh
  • Yashbir S. Shivay
  • Lata Nain
Research Article


Microalgae possess the ability to grow and glean nutrients from wastewater; such wastewater-grown biomass can be used as a biofertilizer for crops. The present investigation was undertaken to evaluate two formulations (formulation with unicellular microalgae (MC1) and formulation with filamentous microalgae (MC2); T4 and T5, respectively), prepared using wastewater-grown microalgal biomass, as a biofertilizer (after mixing with vermiculite/compost as a carrier) in wheat crop (Triticum aestivum L. HD2967) under controlled conditions. The highest values of available nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in soil and nitrogen-fixing potential were recorded in treatment T5 (75 % N + full-dose PK + formulation with filamentous microalgae (MC2). Microbial biomass carbon was significantly enhanced by 31.8–67.0 % in both the inoculated treatments over control (recommended dose of fertilizers), with highest values in T4 (75 % N + full-dose PK + formulation with unicellular microalgae (MC1)). Both the microalgal formulations significantly increased the N, P, and K content of roots, shoots, and grains, and the highest total N content of 3.56 % in grains was observed in treatment T5. At harvest stage, the treatments inoculated with microalgal formulations (T4 and T5) recorded a 7.4–33 % increase in plant dry weight and up to 10 % in spike weight. The values of 1000-grain weight showed an enhancement of 5.6–8.4 %, compared with T1 (recommended doses of fertilizers). A positive correlation was observed between soil nutrient availability at mid crop stage and plant biometrical parameters at harvest stage. This study revealed the promise of such microalgal consortia as a biofertilizer for 25 % N savings and improved yields of wheat crop.


Microalgae Microbial biomass carbon Nutrient availability Soil fertility Plant nutrition Yield 



The first author is thankful to the University Grants Commission, New Delhi, for her fellowship. All the authors are thankful to the Department of Botany, Panjab University, Chandigarh, and to the Division of Microbiology, Division of Agronomy, and National Phytotron Facility, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, for providing the research facilities to carry out the present investigation.

Supplementary material

11356_2015_5884_MOESM1_ESM.xls (138 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1 (AF) Correlation between nutrient characteristics at mid crop and plant biometrical parameters at harvest stage. A Soil available N at mid crop and plant dry weight at harvest stage. B Soil available P at mid crop and plant dry weight at harvest stage. C Soil available N at mid crop and Spike weight at harvest stage. D Soil available P at mid crop and spike weight at harvest stage. E Soil available N at mid crop and 1000 grain weight at harvest. F Soil available K at mid crop and 1000 grain weight at harvest (XLS 138 kb)
11356_2015_5884_MOESM2_ESM.xls (172 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 2 (AF) Correlation between shoot nutrient characteristics and plant biometrical parameters at harvest stage. A Shoot N content and straw yield. B Shoot P content and straw yield. C Shoot N content and spike weight. D Shoot P content and spike weight. E Shoot N content and 1000 grain weight. F Shoot P content and 1000 grain weight (XLS 172 kb)
11356_2015_5884_MOESM3_ESM.xls (213 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 3 Correlation between (AC) different plant characteristics at harvest stage. (DF) Grain nutrient characteristics at harvest stage and soil nutrient characteristics at mid crop stage. A Shoot K content and 1000 grain weight at harvest. B Root N content and straw yield at harvest. C Root N content and plant dry weight at harvest. D Soil available N at mid crop and Grain N content at harvest. E Soil available P at mid crop and Grain P content at harvest. F Soil available K at mid crop and Grain K content at harvest (XLS 213 kb)
11356_2015_5884_MOESM4_ESM.doc (32 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOC 32 kb)
11356_2015_5884_MOESM5_ESM.doc (32 kb)
Supplementary Table 2 (DOC 32 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nirmal Renuka
    • 1
  • Radha Prasanna
    • 2
    Email author
  • Anjuli Sood
    • 2
  • Amrik S. Ahluwalia
    • 1
  • Radhika Bansal
    • 3
  • Santosh Babu
    • 2
  • Rajendra Singh
    • 4
  • Yashbir S. Shivay
    • 3
  • Lata Nain
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BotanyPanjab UniversityChandigarhIndia
  2. 2.Division of MicrobiologyICAR-Indian Agricultural Research InstituteNew DelhiIndia
  3. 3.Division of AgronomyICAR-Indian Agricultural Research InstituteNew DelhiIndia
  4. 4.Water Technology CentreICAR-Indian Agricultural Research InstituteNew DelhiIndia

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