This group is actively pursuing research in the field of molecular biology and biotechnology to understand and utilize the potentials of coastal and marine bioresources. The studies focus mainly on understanding the molecular mechanisms of stress tolerance, functional genomics, proteomics, molecular systematics, biodiversity and bioremediation. The current research activities are centered on

  1. Isolation, cloning and characterization of salt tolerant genes from the halophyte, Salicornia brachiata
  2. Genetic engineering of crop/cash plants for enhanced abiotic tolerance
  3. Biochemical and molecular systematics of seaweeds and microbes
  4. Genomics and Metagenomics of extremophiles and marine microbes
  5. Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria and its biotechnological applications
  6. Molecular mechanism of plant-microbe interactions
  7. Biofilm formation and bacterial quorum sensing
  8. Metabolic engineering for enhanced photosynthesis and CO2 sequestration
  9. Biopigments/biomaterials from cyanobacteria/microalgae as a source of pharmaceutical, and nutraceutical substances.

Our recent achievements

Establishment of seaweed seedling production facility at Marine Algal Research Station, Mandapam: The country is fast emerging as one of the important seaweed production centres in Southeast Asia for seaweed production, featuring at 10th position from no ranking decade ago. Nevertheless, production is still dismal; 0.003 million tons fresh weight constituting only 0.011% in global ranking. CSIR-Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSIR-CSMCRI) has been actively pursuing the seaweed research for nearly half a century. This institute takes pride in being first for pioneering seaweed cultivation, heralding an era of commercial seaweed farming in India. It may be noted that, after nearly ten years of seaweed cultivation and having faced two consecutive drought years in which sea-water temperature touched unprecedented high levels the planting material is showing signs of fatigue. Therefore, in the last few years the production of Kappaphycus has dramatically fallen due and non-availability of elite planting material. The cultivators who opted for it as their livelihood are facing a big challenge as their incomes are falling below the sustainable levels. To overcome this problem the institute has established ‘Seaweed seedling production facility’ a state-of-the-art and one-of its kind in the country. We have also developed a method of clonal propagation of Kappaphycus alvarezii through imparting appropriate treatment of various growth promoting substances was developed and scaled-up. Till date the germplasm of about 500 kg was produced and introduced under commercial operation.

Sustainable agro-technologies to enhance crop yield using seaweed based biostimulants and comprehension of the Science behind the action of seaweed based biostimulants: Agro-technologies were developed for enhancing the crop yields of several crops including flowers, spices, vegetables, arable crops as well as microalgae using seaweed based biostimulants and characterization of bioactive compounds present in the biostimulants was carried out. For the first time, the ecological benefit of using seaweed biostimulants in agriculture was quantitatively spelt out by Life Cycle Assessment approach. The biochemical and molecular mechanisms in plants as well as changes in soil biological properties brought about by application of seaweed based biostimulants on crop plants was deciphered. Beneficial changes in soil microbiome that correlated with enhanced soil biochemical activities were clearly brought out. The modulation in antioxidant system in plants and the differential expression of genes were elucidated under moisture stressed condition which could explain better crop growth and yield response upon application of Kappaphycus seaweed extracts. All these findings formed the basis of a number of policy decisions taken by Government of India recently to promote the seaweed sector. These findings also helped licensing and commercialization of products.

Development of seaweed based animal feed additives: Several animal feed additive products have been engineered by blending selected seaweeds and its extracts in proportions that elicited beneficial effects on health and productivity of animals. In addition, formulations were developed that mot only improved growth rate of animals but also could reduce methane emissions from the ruminants. Such reduced emission from livestock would have significant positive impact on the global warming. One such formulation lead to better calcium content in cow milk, while the other resulted in improved gut health and enhanced egg production with better keeping quality. The formulations also showed better immune-modulatory response in cattle and poultry birds (both in layers and broilers). The results were validated by reputed ICAR institutes working on animals and toxicity tests were also carried out for the formulations.

Aiding commercial cultivation of Gracilaria edulis through spores : Gracilaria are important algae in India in the context of yielding food grade agar. At present the dominant method of cultivating Gracilaria in our country is using vegetative fragments as units to produce new plants. However, development of new methodologies is urgently needed to support agar based industries. Cultivation through spore production and raising of plantlets from spores by understanding its life history is a best viable alternate method. Spore culture method does not involve huge investment. This can be done by the fishermen society. Spore based plants are elite in terms of daily growth rate important trait for commercial interest. About 400 kg biomass produced directly form spores that has scaled up to 5 ton fresh biomass though repeated. farming Elite seed materials supplied to 70 farmers from which 500 rafts seeded. In commercial operation 20 tones dry biomass harvested from spore based seed material.

Cytochrome genes for enhanced photosynthesis and biomass: Seaweed Cytochromes are more efficient in electron transfer due to faster release of oxidized Cytochromes from PSI. Genes encoding cytochromes (Cyt b6 from Kappaphycus and Cyt c6 from Ulva) were cloned from seaweeds and over-expressed in tobacco for enhanced photosynthesis and biomass. Transgenic analysis showed these genes as potential candidate for genetic engineering to enhance the growth and biomass production in crop plants.

Generation of energy from microalgal feedstock through CO2 capture from flue gases: Experience in large-scale cultivation of microalgae in open ponds (360 m3 total volume) made of pre-casted cement blocks covered with HDPE plastic liners at the vicinity of Power Limited utilizing 1000 m2 area. The biomass productivity range from 8 g m-2 d-1 to 13 g m-2 d-1 was observed during December 2019 to March 2020. This endevour aimed to provide growth profile of microalgae cultivated at the vicinity of flue gas chimney and that knowledge could be used top leverage for power plant integrated development of microalgae-based biodiesel feedstock and by-products.