Trivandrum: The Thiruvananthapuram based National Coir Research Management Institute (NCRMI) has said it is committed to providing technology inputs and practical solutions to Kerala’s struggling coir sector to improve the lives of the lakhs of workers employed in this traditional industry, as its new R&D centre stepped up research operations.
NCRMI’s newly inaugurated Advanced Centre for Automated Microbial Characterisation is working on identifying strains of bacteria and fungi that can naturally improve the colour and texture of the strands of coir, resulting in better quality products as well as new applications for this natural fibre.
The microbial analyser at NCRMI is one of the most advanced machines of its kind in Kerala today, capable of identifying microorganisms at the strain level using their physical characteristics and genetic make-up. The fully automated instrument can complete the phenotypic identification in just two minutes and genotypic identification up to the strain level in only four hours – a feat impossible with conventional systems.
Microorganisms have been recognized by experts as among the most promising means to process raw coir fibres and increase productivity without the use of polluting methods and chemicals.
“A correct identification of the microorganism to the strain level is the first major challenge in developing nature-based, sustainable production processes,” said Dr. C K Peethambaran, Retd, Director of Research, Kerala Agricultural University. The instrument is also linked to a universal, standardized, open data system shared by scientists all over the world, which lends authenticity to the identification.
Among the ongoing projects at the lab are biodegradation studies on coir geotextiles to identify the microorganisms involved in the process; isolating and characterizing microflora involved in natural retting process and develop a ‘consortium’ of microorganisms to bio-soften and bio-bleach coir fibres.
The preliminary results of these experiments are very encouraging, said Anil K R, Director, NCRMI. “Three or four decades ago nearly all of the coir fibre was processed using the environmentally damaging natural retting process. With research we managed to nearly eliminate that process, but it is still far from being optimally efficient. NCRMI’s mandate is research with future practical applications for Kerala’s coir sector”.
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