Microalgal cultivation for biofertilization in rice plants using a vertical semi-closed airlift photobioreactor.
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Nitrogen (N) is one of the most important limiting factors in conventional rice (Oryza sativa) production, which heavily relies on synthetic fertilizers. In this study, we researched on the development and use of a vertical semi-closed airlift photobioreactor (PBR) for microalgal cultivation and subsequently determined the efficacy of microalgae-based fertilizers to rice plant growth. The PBR system was developed to produce two strains of N2-fixing cyanobacteria (Anabaena sp. UTEX 2576, Nostoc muscorum UTEX 2209S), and a polyculture of Chlorella vulgaris (UTEX 2714) and Scenedesmus dimorphus (UTEX 1237). When these biofertilizers were evaluated for rice under the greenhouse conditions, results showed that the rice plant heights treated with polyculture-based microalgal biomass were similar to or better than the urea treatment. The effects of the inoculation of the N2-fixing cyanobacterial inoculation on seedling growth was not statistically significant. In conclusion, the vertical semi-closed system PBR cultivation method developed in this study proved to be a simple and effective method for cultivating microalgae. Demonstration of the reliable production system for N2-fixing cyanobacteria and chlorophytes at a medium scale could potentially open the future application of microalgal biofertilizers in rice production.