Colour-producing microbes found in Kutch

Ahmedabad: A biocolour-producing bacterial strain has been found in the soil of the arid Banni region of Kutch district, which may find application in the dye-making industry.

For the first time this pigment-production employing halophilic bacterial culture has been found in saline soils of Banni, according to the researchers at the Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE).

Director-in-charge of GUIDE, Dr V Vijay Kumar, said, "When the pigment (obtained from these bacteria) was used for dyeing cotton yarn, it showed a higher colour withstanding ability even when exposed to high temperature and light. It is an interesting indication about its potential for commercial application."

Biologically produced colours are in a great demand, and these microorganisms can find application in various sectors, GUIDE scientists say.

A group of four researchers examined 30-35 bacterial strains from the soil samples from Banni area, and discovered two pigment-producing strains.

"Preliminary findings suggest that this discovery has a potential for commercial production of eco-friendly colours in the dye stuff industry," said Dr K Karthikeyan, a scientist at GUIDE and a member of the research group.

"We are now planning to design a pilot scale set-up where potential of this organism can be tested at higher volumes, 100 litres or 1,000 litres, which are on industrial scale," he said.

Researchers would also study toxicity level of the pigments, to see if they are safe enough to be used as food colours, Karthikeyan said.

"A lot of research is going on towards producing natural colours but nothing which can be used at an industrial scale has been found so far," said Gujarat Dyestuff Manufacturers Association President, Shankerbhai Patel.

Banni grasslands, known for rich wildlife and biodiversity, are spread over area of about 3,847 square kilometres. They enjoy the status of `Reserve Forest`.