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Microorganisms are microscopic living creatures that exist as a single cells or cell colonies. Most microorganisms are prokaryotes. However there are some eukaryotic microorganisms such as algae, fungi and protozoa. They are highly diverse and their biomass is larger than biomass of higher organisms. Approximately there are 5 * 1030 cells of prokaryotic microorganisms on Earth. Wide dissemination of the microorganisms indicates their huge role in nature. They participate in a decomposition of various organic substances in soils and waters. They are responsible for the cycling of matter and energy in nature. Moreover, soil fertility, the formation of coal, oil and many other minerals depends on their activity. Many microorganisms are used in industrial and agricultural production. Baking, manufacturing of dairy products, winemaking are based on the activity of various microorganisms. Scientists synthesize vitamins, enzymes, proteins, organic acids and many substances used in agriculture by using microorganisms. The discovery of new methods for cultivation of modified forms of beneficial microorganisms has allowed greater use of microorganisms in agriculture and industry as well as in medicine. Particularly promising is the development of gene engineering. Its achievements have provided the development of biotechnology, the emergence of microorganisms that synthesize proteins, enzymes, vitamins, antibiotics, growth and other substances necessary for animal and plant products (Madigan, M.T. and Martinko, J.M. 2006). Along with useful microorganisms there is a large group of pathogenic microorganisms which cause various diseases of farm animals, plants and humans. As a result of their activity epidemics of infectious diseases occur in humans and animals. However, the main purpose of this paper is to show that microorganisms are more than just disease causing agents. Therefore next paragraphs will emphasize particular attention to the beneficial features of microorganisms.
To begin with, essay investigates the role of microorganisms in soil composition. Soil is vital for humanity as it is used as a basic mean for food and crop production in agriculture. All agricultural products are composed of organic substances which are synthesised in plants under the influence of the solar energy. Decomposition of the organic matter and synthesis of new compounds belonging to the humus takes place under the action of enzymes produced by different microorganisms. There are a very large number of various microorganisms in the soil. Microorganisms are not only decompose organic matter into more simple mineral and organic compounds, but also actively participate in the synthesis of macromolecular compounds such as humus acids, which form the stock of nutrients in the soil (Elsas, J.D.2007) . In order to improve soil fertility and consequently, to increase productivity, we must take care of the nutrition of micro-organisms, create conditions for active development of microbiological processes that increase the population of microorganisms in the soil. The main suppliers of plant nutrients are aerobic microorganisms which need oxygen to carry out vital processes. Therefore an increase in friability, water permeability, aeration at optimum moisture and soil temperature data provides the largest supply of nutrients to the plants, which causes their rapid growth and increase yields. However, for normal growth and full development plants require not only macronutrients such as potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, but also micronutrients such as selenium, which acts as a catalyst in biochemical reactions, and without which the plant is not able to form an effective immune system. Suppliers of micronutrients may be anaerobic bacteria - microorganisms that live in deeper soil layers and for which the oxygen is a poison. Anaerobic bacteria are capable to lift necessary microelements for the plants from the deep soil layers. In fertile soils not only microorganisms booming, but also the soil fauna. Animals in the soil are represented by earthworms, caterpillars, various soil insects and rodents. Among the microscopic fauna, worms are most active soil composers. They live in the surface horizons of the soil and feed on plant remains, flowing through their intestinal tract a large amount of organic matter and mineral components of the soil. Microorganisms in the soil form a complex biocenosis in which their various groups are related to each other in complex ways. Some of them are successfully co-exist, while others are antagonists (the opponents).Antagonism usually manifested in the fact that some groups of microorganisms secrete specific substances that slow the development of other microorganisms (Elsas, J.D. 2007).
Microorganisms are widely used food processing for many years. They are necessary for the production of bread and pastries, beer, wine, spirits, vinegar, milk products, salted fish, cheese and cottage cheese, pickled and marinated vegetables and etc. Microorganisms are also a rich source of food additives, enzymes and other substances used in food production. The method of recombinant DNA allowed scientists to create strains of lactic acid and other fermenting bacteria that are resistant to viral infections. Some bacteria used in fermentation of food have the ability to synthesize the compounds that are harmful for microorganisms that cause spoilage and food poisoning. Biotechnological approaches allow professionals to give such properties to most currently used microorganisms. Microorganisms are important for the food industry not only because of its ability to fermentation products, but also as a source of food additives. Food additives used to improve the nutritional value, enable longer storage. Many amino acid supplements, flavour enhancers and vitamins added to foods produced through bacterial fermentation. Over time, biotechnology is to provide food manufacturers the possibility of synthesizing a large number of food additives, which are currently too expensive or not readily available because of the limited natural sources of these compounds. Food manufacturers use plant starch as a thickener and fat replacement in low calorie foods. Enzymes produced by microbial fermentation, play important role of processing aids for the food industry. The first commercial biotechnology product was an enzyme chymosin used in cheese making. Prior to the introduction of biotechnological methods, this enzyme had removed from the stomachs of calves, lambs or goats, and today it is synthesized by bacteria, which have corresponding gene incorporated into their genome. To date, the food industry has been used for more than 55 different enzymes of microbial origin (Wheelis, M. 2008). Microorganisms are significant in food industry allowing us to produce variety of food items available to every person. Many complex processes in food industry became simpler and financially more beneficial after the introduction of microorganism in this industry. Development of food industry allows people to supply food and many nutrients to countries which suffer from food shortage more effectively.
Biological wastewater treatment
Since the beginning of the twentieth century combination of the microorganisms and the chemical methods are used for biological wastewater treatment. Intensive treatment produced in special containers: aeration tanks, digesters. There are two technologies of water purification from organic pollutants: aerobic and anaerobic. For aerobic mineralization in aeration tanks activated sludge, containing bacteria and heterotrophic unicellular eukaryotes, is used. As a result of this cleaning complete oxidation of organic matter occurs. In anaerobic digesters mineralization occurs by fermentation of organic matter to form methane, which is then used as a fuel (biogas). For the expansion of synthetic organic chemicals (detergents), bacteria obtained by artificial mutagenesis are used. Some microorganisms are used for the selective accumulation of certain chemical elements: diatoms for the accumulation of silicon, iron bacteria to accumulate iron, etc (Wheelis, M. 2008). Different wastewater treatment technologies prevent the pollution of water systems thus maintaining sustainable aquatic life.
Production of biofuels
Biofuels include hydrocarbons and alcohols obtained by processing various organic wastes using microorganisms. For example, waste starch and sugar production, textile and wood industries are raw material for production of alcohol and biogas - cheap fuel for automobile engines and other power plants. Note that the alcohols and biogas are clean fuels - when they are burned completely formed oxygenated compounds.
Microbiological synthesis is the synthesis of various substances by microorganisms.
Establishment of the modern microbiological synthesis is due to the discovery of antibiotics and the development of methods for their industrial production by actinomycetes and fungi. Currently, microorganisms are used in various high technologies: production of antibiotics, feed protein and amino acids, bioactive compounds (vitamins, hormones, enzymes, and growth promoters). The transformation of substances in the other substances with the help of microorganisms is called bioconversion. During microbiological synthesis a variety of carbon sources (natural hydrocarbons, organic waste), mineral salts and atmospheric nitrogen are used as raw materials. Prokaryotes (bacteria, actinomycetes) and fungi are used as microorganisms. In some cases, the resulting product is subject to additional processing. For example antibiotics, obtained by micro-organisms, are modified by chemical methods, which increases their therapeutic effect (semi-synthetic penicillin and tetracycline). One of the types of the microbial synthesis is enzymatic synthesis. It uses not the microorganisms but enzymes isolated from them. Enzymatic synthesis reduces the likelihood of adverse reactions, removes the danger of bacterial contamination of the environment, and reduces the amount of biologically active waste. To increase the length of service they are subjected to enzyme immobilization, coupling with the polymer matrix. Immobilization may be used to living cells as well. Immobilized enzyme and cells allow for continuous fermentation process (Madigan, M.T. and Martinko, J.M. 2006).
Overall, it is particularly important use of microorganisms in crop and livestock production. Depends on them enrich the soil with nitrogen, the fight against pests with microbial drugs, proper cooking and storage of feed, the establishment of feed protein, antibiotics, and substances of microbial origin for animal feeding. Recent scientific evidence has not only significantly extended our knowledge of microorganisms and processes that they cause in the environment, but also helped to create new branches in the industrial and agricultural production. For example, the discovery of antibiotics synthesized by microorganisms made them available to use in treatment of humans, animals and plants, as well as in storage of agricultural products. The ability of microorganisms to form biologically active substances such as vitamins, amino acids and plant growth stimulators are widely used in science and industry. Scientists found ways to use microbial proteins for animal feeding. Such a wide use of microorganisms makes them very significant to human population. People generally think that microorganisms only cause various diseases, however it is clear that most of the biological activities in biosphere is related to them.