New Solution Found to Disposal of Feather Waste

INDIA - Sathya Balachander, a young scientist from SASTRA University, has discovered a bacterium that can break down feathers within a couple of days.
calendar icon 30 July 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

There could soon be a solution for the pollution caused by the poultry waste, mainly the feathers, according to Times of India. A young Indian scientist has discovered a unique bacteria which could help in addressing this problem. Worldwide, around 8.5 billion tonnes of poultry feather is generated annually, of which India's contribution alone is 350 million tonnes.

The finding does not end here. The young scientist has also found out that once feathers are degraded, certain bacteria and enzymes can be added to the residual matter following which the new synthesised matter can either effectively be used as pesticide or poultry feed.

The discovery has been made by Sathya Balachander, a 20-year-old engineer pursuing BTech from Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy (SASTRA) University, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. Sathya is on a two-month fellowship of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore. As part of the programme he is conducting his experiments at the Biological Product Lab of Prof Anupam Dikshit, department of botany, Allahabad University. Prof Dikshit too has a number of patents to his credit.

The bacteria found by Sathya has been endorsed by the National Council of Biotechnological Information (NCBI), Delhi. "It is clear from the experiments conducted at the lab that this particular bacteria effectively degrades a feather within 48 to 72 hours," said Professor Anupam Dikshit.

"I am working on a bacteria called Streptomyces indiaensis found from the soil of a feather-dumping ground at Vallam in Thanjavur, which has the potential of degrading the hard sulphur bonds present in keratin (the substance present in a feather which gives hard protection to chicken, or for that matter in any other bird, against extreme environmental conditions)," he said.

"A single feather naturally gets degraded in five to seven years but this particular microorganism enhances the speed of degradation after which the same feather gets destroyed within 48 to 72 hours," added Sathya. The poultry feathers are either dumped, which pollute the soil, or are burnt which again pollutes the air. In both cases, the presence of sulphur dioxide in feathers is cause of pollution.

Around 24 billion chickens are killed per year across the world which is discarding four billion pound (18,14,369 tonnes) of poultry feather, according to Times of India. This mammoth size of discarded feather, apart from polluting the soil or air, also causes various human ailments including chlorosis, mycoplasmosis and fowl cholera said Sathya, sharing his view on the magnitude of pollution arising from feather waste.

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