Bio-fertilizers, more commonly known as microbial inoculants, are artificially multiplied cultures of certain soil organisms that can improve soil fertility and crop productivity. Although the 3 beneficial effects of legumes in improving soil fertility was known since ancient times and their role in biological nitrogen fixation was discovered more than a century ago, commercial exploitation of such biological processes is of recent interest and practice.
The commercial history of bio-fertilizers began with the launch of Nitragin by Nobbe and Hiltner, a laboratory culture of Rhizobia in 1895, followed by the discovery of Azotobacter and then the blue green algae and a host of other micro-organisms. Azospirillum and Vesicular-Arbuscular Micorrhizae (VAM) are fairly recent discoveries. In India the first study on legume Rhizobium symbiosis was conducted by N.V.Joshi and the first commercial production started as early as 1956. However the Ministry of Agriculture under the Ninth Plan initiated the real effort to popularize and promote the input with the setting up of the National Project on Development and Use of Biofertilizers (NPDB).
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