The maintenance of a unialgal population of Arthrospira in outdoor ponds requires a good understanding of the physiology and ecology of the algae. Optimization of the productivity and quality of the culture requires the appropriate climatic environment, pond design, chemistry, and routine monitoring to fit the physiological and ecological requirements of the algae. Even though the medium used for growing Spirulina prevents contamination by other algae owing to its high pH and alkalinity, suboptimal operation of the culture control process can lead to contamination by other algae. This is particularly true during the scale-up process when the biomass concentration of Arthrospira is low. However, this problem is surmounted through careful manipulation of the nutrient content and through an ecosystem approach. Culture can be scaled up either from laboratory culture or from culture overwintered in green house or open ponds. The latter makes the expansion process a lot faster. However, not all production facilities have the know-how to maintain a healthy culture during the cold winter months.
The maintenance of unialgal culture calls for continuous analysis of various pond parameters. The most important of these is daily microscopic examination of the culture from each pond to monitor contamination by other algae, and to detect any abnormal morphological changes that provide signs of culture deterioration. In addition to microscopic examination, various methods are employed to observe the physiological state of the algae. Routine monitoring of nutrient concentration is also essential in order to avoid nutrient limitation that can affect both the yield and the quality of the final product. Since the maintenance of high alkalinity and pH are also important for successful pond management, these are measured routinely as are depth and circulation of the ponds. Some facilities have developed simple bioassay techniques that enable them to find out causes for culture deterioration within a few hours and apply quick corrective measures in order to avoid excessive culture renewal. It is clear from the forgoing discussion that the maintenance of a unialgal culture of Spirulina outdoors is not an easy task. For more detailed information on this subject the reader is referred to other reviews.24,25,33
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