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Researchers Asses the Factors that Influence Algal Mass Culture Failure

Algae..!

They are the sturdiest species when you want to get rid of them and the weakest species when you try to mass culture it for producing biofuels. Of many culprit organisms that may result in the deterioration of algal culture and biomass yield, grazing zooplankton or predators, often are responsible for frequent culture ‘crashes’ and loss of productivity.

By far the potent threat to algae is the metazoan organisms which include rotifers, nematodes, gastrotricha and oligochaetes. These organisms are aerobic and the photosynthetic oxygen from algae provides them an ideal environment to grow. Also there is reported evidence that nematodes and oligochaetes could survive in microaerophilic conditions. There are also reports on the presence of arachnids, tardigrades and myriapods. These predators are known to feed on algal biomass thereby embrittlig it and encourage loosening, decrease biomass volume and accelerate mineralization.

Except for a few algal strains that can tolerate extreme growing environments, the risk of contamination is so obvious that sustainable cultivation of many algal crops of economic interest – in particular, oil-producing algal strains on a large scale – has not been possible because of the undesirable culture crashes.

Hopefully, the problem of contamination and crashing would not haunt the biofuel producers anymore. Researchers at the Arizona State University, with million dollar support from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are studying the factors that influence the algal mass culture failure.

The research work aims for a detailed understanding of the factors influencing the occurrence, population dynamics, impact and control of zooplanktons. The researchers will survey zooplankton contamination in commercial algal production systems, as well as in their own algae test bed facilities at ASU campus, where a number of production strains are cultivated in various types of culture systems. Moreover, biotic and abiotic factors that influence these zooplanktons will also be investigated. The researchers are aiming at developing an empirical model for assessment and prediction of potential impact of zooplankton contamination on overall algal culture stability and biomass production potential.

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