Increased growth in plantation trees
Many plants have beneficial symbiotic relationships with
mycorrhizal fungi. There is now a wealth of information on the ecology and
biology of mycorrhizal associations with plants (see Harley and Smith, 1983;
Nemec, 1987; Kropp and Langlois, 1990). Of particular interest to plantation
forestry is the potential for increased biomass productivity by exploiting the
growth stimulating effects of mycorrhiza. It is now known that; (a) to
maximize benefits of the fungi, plants should be inoculated with particular
fungi at the time of seedling production, and (b) there are few technical
barriers to the exercise of inoculation as a management option in current
practices for seedlings.
Rationale for R & D
a. There is a quantifiable commercial benefit to
the plantation industry from increments in growth rates of plantation trees,
b. mycorrhizal fungi have the potential to increase
the growth rate of those plants with whose roots they share a symbiosis
c. these benefits serve as the basis for for the
demand for inocula of mycorrhizal fungi,
research on mycorrhizal fungi has largely concentrated on ecology and biology
but not on mass culture and formulation to develop inocula as a commodity for
e. development of process
technology for inocula of mycorrhizal fungi is important in the adoption of
mycorrhizal technology; is a necessary strategic target in the commercial
exploitation of the potential demand in fungal inocula, and the lack of supply
of commercial inoculum has been recognized by some as a limitation to
utilization of mycorrhizal technology (Chang, 1994),
f. most currently proposed forms of inocula do not
for high-quality inoculum (Tommerup et al., 1987),
g. the form of inoculum described later herein is
Biosynthetica Pty. Ltd. began R&D on inoculants for
increased plantation productivity in 1987 when as Interbac Australasia Pty. Ltd.
it began start-up funding of a 3-year research program at the University of
Western Australia to develop an inoculum form later named Mycobead.
Interbac remained, and Biosynthetica continues to remain start-up company whose
main role is to continue funding the development of the program. Biosynthetica
and its predecessor have exclusively provided the project funding and have not
previously applied for any grants or subsidies. Biosynthetica became a wholly
owned subsidiary of Biron Corp. Ltd., a listed public company. Biron acquired
the rights to intellectual property for a novel process for artificially
producing emeralds and after several years of R&D achieved commercial production
Interbac secured the services of
Dr. Clem Kuek at start-up in 1987 because
the program relied upon, and continues to rely on his expertise from his PhD
studies (see Kuek and Armitage, 1985) on immobilization of fungal mycelia in
hydrogel beads, the main feature of the inoculum program. In 1991, Dr. Kuek took
up his current appointment as Senior Lecturer in Industrial Microbiology in the
Faculty of Business and Technology at the University of Western Sydney,
Macarthur. Dr. Kuek continued R&D for Biosynthetica at the University of Western
collaboration in the development of Mycobead
R&D in Mycobead was centered on the technology required to mass culture
mycorrhizal fungi of commercial importance in a form which will be compatible
with forestry practices. However, the supply of fungal strains and ecological
studies of the performance of the fungi in increasing the rate of tree growth
was undertaken by a collaborating research organization. Similarly, a plantation
company collaborated in the conduct of field trials to prove the inoculum form
and the fungi. Thus, a tripartite arrangement was always in place. In further
development of Mycobead, suitable collaborating organizations will need
to be re-enagaged.
commencement at Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, School of Agriculture, the
University of Western Australia. Three-year collaboration with the CSIRO
Division of Forestry begins. The latter supplied fungal cultures of promise.
Fermentation studies begin for the
free-culture of mycorrhizal
1988 Studies on
immobilized mycorrhizal fungi commence. New collaborations with Alcoa of
Australia, the W.A. Department of Conservation and Land Management, and Bunnings
Treefarms Pty. Ltd. All organizations were supplied trial inoculum.
Nursery trials conducted at Alcoa of Australia' nursery. Cost-benefit analysis of the use of inocula in W.A.
undertaken for subsequent use as the basis for negotiations on a pricing
1989 Small-scale machine for the axenic
production of immobilized fungi proved. Model system
at laboratory scale for the production of immobilized
mycelia of ectomycorrhizal fungi (Mycobead) developed. Trials of the use
of Mycobead in the commercial seedling nursery
of Bunnings Treefarms begun.
1990 Long-term preservation techniques for fungal
cultures developed in collaboration with Alcoa of Australia Ltd. and Pivet
laboratories Ltd. Trials at Bunnings Treefarms nursery continued. Over
80,000 seedlings were inoculated with nearly 100% success
rate (Hardy et al., 1991). Bunnings place orders for 100,000 inoculum
doses for 1991/92 planting season to test the production and marketing of
mycorrhizal eucalypts. Negotiations begin with Bunnings Treefarms for commercial
collaboration for the production and marketing of Mycobead. Funding from
Interbac halted due to problems from company re- structuring. Program halted.
1991 Program moved to the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur where
it was funded to 1994 at the minimal level as a means of conserving the
technology rather than further developing it. Bunnings Treefarms cease
mycorrhizal R&D because government regulations regarding the development of
eucalypt plantations cannot exploit the benefits of their fungi.
1994 Status: Thus, developed to model stage is production technology for
a unique inoculum form and theoretically superior to
other forms of inoculum.
1995 Department of Industry, Science &
Technology approval given for the technical bases for a $3,000,000 R&D
Syndicate. However, changes in taxation law in December of that year meant that
plans for the syndicate had to be shelved.
1996 Status: The project awaited revival either through outright purchase
or licensing arrangement. Negotiations were conducted for the technology to be
used in an R & D Syndicate project commencing November, 1996.
1997 Status: The project was
incorporated into the Xylonova R&D Syndicate for a
sub-contract period of 2 years with $150,000 funding. The objective of the
Xylonova Syndicate is to develop elite eucalypts for saline environments.
Chang, D C N (1994) What is the potential for
management of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae in horticulture? In
Management of Mycorrhizas in Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry. Eds. A D
Robson, L K Abbott and N Malajczuk. pp.: 187-190. Kluwer Academic Publishers,
Hardy G E St J; Thomson, B D; Malajczuk, N and Grove, T S (1991)
Commercial inoculation of eucalypts with ectomycorrhizal fungi. In
Mycorrhizas in Ecosystems - Structure and Function, Abstracts 3rd European Conf.
on Mycorrhizae, Sheffield.
Harley J L and Smith S E (1983) Mycorrhizal symbiosis. Academic Press,
Nemec, S (1987) VA mycorrhizae in horticultural systems. In
Ecophysiology of VA Mycorrhizal Plants. Ed. S R Safir. pp.: 193-221. CRC Press
Inc., Boca Raton, Florida.
Kropp, B R and Langlois, C-G (1990) Ectomycorrhizae in reforestation.
Can. J. For. Res. 20: 438-451.
Kuek, C (1996)
Shake flask culture of Laccaria
laccata, an ectomycorrhizal basidomycete. Appl. Microb. and Biotechnol. 45:
Kuek, C and Armitage, T A (1985) Scanning electron microscopic examination
of calcium alginate beads immobilizing growing mycelia of Aspergillus
phoenicus. Enz. Microb. Technol. 7: 121-125.
Kuek, C; Tommerup, I C and Malajczuk, N (1992) Hydrogel bead inocula for
the production of ectomycorrhizal euclaypts for plantations. Mycological Res.
Tommmerup I C; Kuek C and Malajczuk, N (1987) Ectomycorrhizal inoculum
production and utilization in Australia. In Mycorrhizae in the Next
Decade: Practical Applications and Research Priorities, Proc. 7th Nth. Am. Conf.
on Mycorrhizae. Eds. D M Sylvia, L L Hung and J H Graham. pp.: 293-295. Inst. of
Food and Agric. Sci., University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Acknowledgment with thanks
To my mentors and
supporters of the project
Dr. Inez Tommerup, Dr. Nick Malajczuk, Mr. David Deane-Spread, Mr. Simon Lill,
and Mr. Julien Sanderson.
To past staff
Peta Oats, Jenny Atthowe, and Timothy Fallows in Perth, Western Australia;
and Angela Mordocco, Huda Shehadeh, Nina Woodcock, Barry Paskins, Lawrence Kurdi,
Maria Auteri, Sonya Zouein and Tim Meyer in Sydney, New South Wales.
Back to Dr. Clem Kuek's