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Biotechnology Journal
Vol. 5, No: 3, 2010, Pages: 292 - 303

Phyto-bioconversion of hard coal in the Cynodon dactylon/coal rhizosphere

Igbinigie EE, Mutambanengwe CC, Rose PD

The Institute for Environmental Biotechnology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.


Fundamental processes involved in the microbial degradation of coal and its derivatives have been well documented. A mutualistic interaction between plant roots and certain microorganisms to aid growth of plants such as Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass) on hard coal dumps has recently been suggested. In the present study coal bioconversion activity of nonmycorrhizal fungi was investigated in the C. dactylon/coal rhizosphere. Fungal growth on 2% Duff-agar, gutation formation on nitric acid treated coal and submerged culture activity in nitrogen-rich and -deficient broth formed part of the screening and selection of the fungi. The selected fungal isolates were confirmed to be found in pristine C. dactylon/coal rhizosphere. To simulate bioconversion, a fungal aliquot of this rhizosphere was used as inoculum for a Perfusate fixed bed bioreactor, packed with coal. The results demonstrate an enhanced coal bioconversion facilitated by low molecular weight organics and the bioconversion of coal may be initiated by an introduction of nitrogen moieties to the coal substrate. These findings suggest a phyto-bioconversion of hard coal involving plant and microbes occurring in the rhizosphere to promote the growth of C. dactylon. An understanding of this relationship can serve as a benchmark for coal dumps rehabilitation as well as for the industrial scale bioprocessing of hard coal.

Keywords:plant roots and certain microorganisms,Cynodon dactylon,scale bioprocessing of hard coal.


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