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Bioprospecting of fungal root endophytes for sustainable agriculture.

Microbes are source of our future food requirement.

Photo of Amit Kharkwal
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Amity University Uttar Pradesh

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Uttar Pradesh, with a total area of 243,290 square kilometres (93,935 sq mi), is India's fourth-largest state in terms of land area.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I am working in Uttar Pradesh for last 15 years as a teaching faculty in Amity University Uttar Pradesh. The economics of Uttar Pradesh is based mainly on Agriculture and round 65 % of the total population is dependent on Agriculture. Contribution of agriculture sector is significant in Economic development of the state. I am actively involoved in research on plant-microbe interaction at this place and it is important for me to contribute positively to the state agriculture.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Uttar Pradesh is a state in northern India. With roughly 200 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state in India as well as the most populous country subdivision in the world. It was created on 1 April 1937 as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh during British rule, and was renamed Uttar Pradesh in 1950. The state is divided into 18 divisions and 75 districts with the capital being Lucknow. The two major rivers of the state, the Ganga and Yamuna, join at Allahabad (Prayagraj) and then flow as the Ganga further east. Hindi is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state, along with Urdu.

The state is bordered by Rajasthan to the west, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi to the northwest, Uttarakhand and Nepal to the north, Bihar to the east, Madhya Pradesh to the south, and touches the states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to the southeast. It covers 243,290 square kilometres (93,933 sq mi), equal to 7.34% of the total area of India, and is the fourth-largest Indian state by area. Agriculture and service industries are the largest parts of the state's economy. The service sector comprises travel and tourism, hotel industry, real estate, insurance and financial consultancies. The economy of Uttar Pradesh is the fifth-largest state economy in India with US$220 billion in gross domestic product and a per capita GDP of US$860. Uttar Pradesh ranks twenty eighth among Indian states in human development index.

Uttar Pradesh has a humid subtropical climate and experiences four seasons. The winter in January and February is followed by summer between March and May and the monsoon season between June and September. Summers are extreme with temperatures fluctuating anywhere between 0 °C and 50 °C in parts of the state coupled with dry hot winds called the Loo. The Gangetic plain varies from semiarid to sub-humid. The mean annual rainfall ranges from 650 mm in the southwest corner of the state to 1000 mm in the eastern and southeastern parts of the state. 

Uttar Pradesh has a large population and a high population growth rate. From 1991 to 2001 its population increased by over 26%. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India, with 199,581,477 people on 1 March 2011. The state contributes 16.16% of India's population. The population density is 828 people per square kilometre, making it one of the most densely populated states in the country.

The sex ratio in 2011, at 912 women to 1000 men, was lower than the national figure of 943. The state's 2001–2011 decennial growth rate (including Uttrakhand) was 20.09%, higher than the national rate of 17.64%. Uttar Pradesh has a large number of people living below the poverty line. Estimates released by the Planning Commission for the year 2009–10 revealed that Uttar Pradesh had 59 million people below the poverty line, the most for any state in India.

In terms of net state domestic product (NSDP), Uttar Pradesh is the second-largest economy in India after Maharashtra, with an estimated gross state domestic product of US$210 billion, and hence contributes 8.406% of India. 

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Small and fragmented land-holdings:

The seemingly abundance of net sown area of 24.1 million hectares and total cropped area of 16.5 million hectares pales into insignificance when we see that it is divided into economically unviable small and scattered holdings.


Seed is a critical and basic input for attaining higher crop yields and sustained growth in agricultural production. Distribution of assured quality seed is as critical as the production of such seeds.

Manures, Fertilizers and Biocides:

Indian soils have been used for growing crops over thousands of years without caring much for replenishing. This has led to depletion and exhaustion of soils resulting in their low productivity. The average yields of almost all the crops are among the lowest in the world.


Irrigation is the most important agricultural input in a tropical monsoon country like India where rainfall is uncertain, unreliable and erratic. Sustained progress in agriculture cannot be achieved unless and until more than half of the cropped area is brought under assured irrigation.

Lack of mechanisation:

In spite of the large scale mechanisation of agriculture in some parts of the country, most of the agricultural operations in larger parts are carried on by human hand using simple and conventional tools and implements like wooden plough, sickle, etc.

There is an urgent need to mechanise the agricultural operations so that wastage of labour force is avoided and farming is made convenient and efficient. Agricultural implements and machinery are a crucial input for efficient and timely agricultural operations, facilitating multiple cropping and thereby increasing production.

Soil erosion:

Large tracts of fertile land suffer from soil erosion by wind and water. This area must be properly treated and restored to its original fertility.

Agricultural Marketing:

Agricultural marketing still continues to be in a bad shape in rural India. In the absence of sound marketing facilities, the farmers have to depend upon local traders and middlemen for the disposal of their farm produce which is sold at throw-away price.

According to an estimate 85 per cent of wheat and 75 per cent of oil seeds in Uttar Pradesh is sold by farmers in the village itself.

Inadequate storage facilities:

Storage facilities in the rural areas are either totally absent or grossly inadequate. Under such conditions the farmers are compelled to sell their produce immediately after the harvest at the prevailing market prices which are bound to be low.

Inadequate transport:

One of the main handicaps is the lack of cheap and efficient means of transportation. Even at present there are lakhs of villages which are not well connected with main roads or with market centers.

Scarcity of capital:

Agriculture is an important industry and like all other industries it also requires capital. The role of capital input is becoming more and more important with the advancement of farm technology.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The problems of sustainable agriculture growth can be addressed by making a paradigm shift in the application of agents, which can be used profitably by small and marginal farmers. Ever since the colonization of earth by plants, microbes have been a part and parcel of plant establishment either as endophyte, associative and symbiotic association. However, they have not been used as rigorously as they should have been to address the problems of seed, soil, salinity, drought, area under cultivation, pest control and other cultural control. Nature has provided us the solution within itself but we have been venturing outside to find the problems. Bioprospecting of beneficial microbes will be helpful in finding a solution and alternative to heavily mechanized industrial agriculture with location specific solutions to find means of food security. It will in effect lead to an in situ community conservation of biodiversity for sustainable use by future generations.

 This will help in reducing the input cost of agriculture and make farming community more resilient to climate change. The increase in income of the farmers will prevent them from migrating to big cities where they would be working as unskilled labors with no sustainable livelihood. These changes will have an overall outlook of community as key drivers of prosperity with changing local and global political narratives.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Millions of people are living below the poverty line and at subsistance level of existance in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. With these challenges addressed majority of these people who are still dependent on agriculture as primary source of income will have better and environmental friendly sustainble life style. The poor will have enough resources to feed themselves within their community and also conserve the biodiversity. With the problems of feeding themselvs solved, they will be better able to manage a family with lesser children who will be better educated and provide a meaningful human resource to the society. People will evolve their landholdings in cooperatives thus reducing land fragmentation. These combined landholdings will discourage monocultures and provide a stable crop biodiversity as common heritage for future generations to come.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Bioprospecting and mediation of root endophytes in crops of agricultural importance will lead to reduction in use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide usage thereby reducing the input cost. This will help in sustainable agriculture and increasing the farmers income.

The root endophytes will also help in not only increasing the crop productivity but enhance the nutrient density of crop particularly micronutrients. Micronutrient deficiency is a major cause of global hidden hunger today, because the conventional agriculture approaches are unable to direct required minerals from soil to edible part of the plants. This has happened because many of the high yielding varieties are grown in the fields aided by application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This has resulted in loss of valuable soil microbial diversity, which took millennia to develop but has wiped out rapidly from our soils. It is incumbent on us to encourage and preserve the native culture and practices which help us in sustaining biodiversity because they are the gene pool for the future generations of this planet.

All most all the plants in nature exhibit some sort of interaction with microbes (mostly fungi or bacteria) which, either help plant in growth and development or are pathogenic. Beneficial relationship between plants and microbes (symbiosis) is readily exploited and implemented for sustainably enhancing growth and yield of important agro-economic crops. Root colonizing and plant growth promoting fungi or ‘Mycorrhizae’ are studied most due to their abundance and variability of interaction they implement in different crops. These endosymbionts are known to possess a hitherto of enzymatic activities which play an important role in solubilizing and providing major nutrients (Phosphate, Zinc, Iron, Copper, Manganese etc) from soil to the roots through the fungal mycelia. In return, plant roots provide shelter and nutrient to the fungal partner. Although discovered in 1885, the most important and major bottleneck faced by the scientific community in harboring these Mycorrhizae is that, these fungi cannot be mass produced in chemically defined medium, they only grow in the presence of its plant host’s root. This makes it difficult for researchers and agronomists around the globe to exploit the plant growth promoting properties of such beneficial fungal endosymbionts for industrial and agro-economical purposes. Our group has isolated and patented a novel plant promoting root endophyte Talaromyces purpureogenus HNB9 strain. The fungus has shown various PGPRs (Plant Growth Promoting Rhizospheric Microbes) properties like Zinc, Iron and Phosphate solubilzation, auxin production. Our preliminary work in laboratory, green-house and field has shown promising results in terms of plant growth promotion and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The fungus is axenically culturable in a defined semi-synthetic medium.

Culturable root endophytes like Talaromyces purpureogenus HNB9 offers the advantage of offering a high spore count in the formulation. Seed/seedling application of this high spore count formulation will make it compatible with conventional agriculture and also minimize the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The bio-formulation has potential to substantially enhance crop productivity while minimizing the input of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  

Environmental Aspect: The indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has resulted in depletion of soil fertility. With growing environmental concerns, the sole dependence on chemical inputs based agriculture is being replaced by integrated approach involving conjunctive use of both organic, bio and inorganic sources. The technology has great scope for industrial application in an agro-based economy like India. The optimized bio-formulation will help in reducing usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and also enhance soil fertility.

Outcomes -

1. The project envisages en masse supply of a potent plant promoter at an affordable price to farmers.

2. Conventional farming to achieve higher crop yield and reduce fertilizer and pesticide consumption, which will save precious foreign exchange.

3. Expansion of organic farming.

4. Sustainable soil-plant-human health continuum.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website


Join the conversation:

Photo of Amit Kharkwal

Thanks for the quick response

Photo of Giok P Chua

We got to catch up to see how we can do better for farmers together

Photo of Amit Kharkwal

Sure Giok

Photo of Thu Nguyen

Hi Amit Kharkwal 

Welcome to the Food Vision Prize community!

For the last hours before the deadline, make sure you have reviewed your final submission through the Pocket Guide to support you through the final hours of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision.
Here is the link to the pocket guide:

Look forward to seeing your submission finalised by 31st January, 5:00 pm EST :)