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Biochemistry Supports Environmentally Sustainable Development

Even a simple enumeration of the spheres of human endeavor which can be placed on a basically new level would add up to an impressive list and the agency which can make this possible is microorganisms. The large-scale microbiological investigations in the field of biochemical processes proved to contribute “environmentally sound and sustainable development” (UN, 2003) of mankind.

Microbes exist everywhere, however the richest storehouse of microbes is soil. Here each microbe may be considered as a chemical plant of tremendous capacity. While some microbes feed on complex vegetable or animal proteins, others confine themselves to ordinary wood wastes, and others occur simply incepting atmospheric nitrogen or carbon dioxide. Having taking into account these facts, laboratory experimenters created special artificial media in which microbe “food” is dissolved. Here microorganisms rapidly multiply and in the course of their life activity synthesize food, medicinal and other substances.

Agriculture requires large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers. The problem can be resolved by bacteria capable of absorbing and fixing atmospheric nitrogen thus enriching the soil and sharply increasing harvests.

Moreover, bacteria can help agriculture in the creation of water bodies. Ponds and lakes are becoming an integral part of farming areas However, they cannot be created everywhere. In some spots the bed fails to trap water, which escapes very quickly. Researchers of the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Land Reclamation (US, Illinois) found the way to compact ground artificially using anaerobic bacteria — microbes capable to live and develop without free oxygen.

In nature microorganisms make an enormous contribution to the formation of some rocks and minerals and to the destruction of others, as well as to the formation of oil and gas deposits. Naturally, such all-powerful bacteria should be made to work for man in these fields as well.

Usually from 5 to 20 per cent of the ore in depleted ore deposits remains in the earth defying extraction by modern technical means. Perhaps the only way this

underground “cemetery” can be reached is mobilizing billions upon billions of bacteria including sulphur and iron ones, otherwise known as thionic microorganisms. They dissolve the metal contained in ores in mine water, which can be extracted without any particular difficulty.

Russian scientists have discovered among the microorganisms “experts” which make it possible to use bacteria in prevailing underground explosions. Methane, for instance, forms an explosive substance as it mixes with the air. Then one spark is enough to send a tornado of fire rolling through the mine. Associates of the Moscow Mining Engineers’ Institute have developed an original method of combating methane based on the ability of some organisms to absorb this gas.

Russian manufacturers produce more than a million tonnes of feed additives of microbial origin which contain more than 50% of protein. However, in proportion to expended fodder only 20 to 30 % of meat and milk can be obtained, and only from rapidly growing young animals, and still less — only 10% from adult specimens. Then the following question would be taken up: could nutrients, fed to them be used by man directly? Perhaps, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc. can be used directly through the processing them into full-valued food suitable for man. It has been demonstrated that by combining products derived from microorganisms with traditional type of food man can obtain dishes well balanced in terms of content and protein composition. However, this question turned out to be disputable up to date.

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