By Dr Steven Wakelin, CSIRO Land and Water
The CSIRO has discovered an Australian strain of a “mineral-eating”
fungus that promises to release nutrients from soil minerals and boost
crop yields. These new strains of the Penicillium bilaiae fungus are undergoing
rigorous testing in the GRDC inoculant evaluation program.
In the first phase of field trials, conducted by the Mingenew Irwin Group
in Western Australia, both P. bilaiae and P. radicum increased lentil
yield by 10 percent on a cracking clay soil. Soon we hope to have a range
of Penicillium inoculants available for Australian farmers to match their
This new research follows worldwide interest in developing these “mineral
eating” fungi into microbial inoculants. Penicillium fungi are commonly
found in agricultural soils throughout the world. Most species are integral
to the fundamental ecosystem services we take for granted, such as organic
matter breakdown and nutrient recycling.
However, the strains that have now been discovered can release nutrients
from soil minerals. As well as increasing crop production, these inoculants
could potentially increase fertiliser efficiency in an environmentally
Such opportunities are being heralded overseas with the highly successful
introduction of a strain of mineral-solubilising Penicillium bilaiae to
the Canadian and American markets. Results of more than 400 field trials
have shown that seed inoculation with P. bilaiae increases average yield
by 7.6 percent.
So why are Australian farmers missing out on technology that is proven
to increase yields? To date, the major limitation has been the identification
and development of strains of Penicillium suited to local soils and environmental
Research between Charles Sturt University and Australia Seed Inoculants
Ltd led to the discovery of an Australian-native fungus called Penicillium
radicum. This fungus has also been found to solubilise soil minerals and
increase plant growth.
It is now marketed as Pr70Release™ by Bio-Care Technology Pty Ltd,
Much of this work is being conducted by CSIRO Land and Water in Adelaide.
With support from the GRDC, trials have been conducted to determine the
best opportunities for use of Pr70Release™ in Australia.
For more information:
Dr Maarten Ryder, 08 8303 8534, email@example.com
Dr Steven Wakelin, 08 8303 8708, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio-Care Technology, 02 4340 2246
GRDC RESEARCH CODE CSO223, program 4