Agricultural microbiology is a scientific discipline oriented to satisfy the request of new knowledge from the society, consumers and producers, needed for the exploitation of microbial resources in the main frame of agricultural and agro-industrial processes. In a world teeming with microorganisms,benefits and threats are continuously posed to humans, animals, plants and the environment as a whole. Threats come from microbial pathogens that perpetrate a wide range of plant and animal diseases, reducing agricultural productivity.

The constant spread and evolution of agricultural pathogens provides a continually renewed source of challenges to productivity and food safety. Benefits come from the many microorganisms associated with, or introduced into, cropping systems, food and food related industries.Additionally, new vulnerabilities are generated for agriculture by global movement of agricultural products, trading policies, industrial agricultural practices, and the potential for malicious releases of pathogens. Science and technology emerging from microbiology research can help meet these challenges to agriculture. Knowledge of microbial pathogens will lead to tools for surveillance and disease prevention. Beneficial microbes may find uses in agriculture as biofertilizers, phytostimulators, bioherbicides, biopesticides, bioremediators etc. Complex interactions among microbes and agricultural systems must be better understood to facilitate the optimal use of beneficial microorganisms and maximal control of pathogens. In this programme, attempts will be made to give an in depth knowledge pertaining to sustainable use of microorganisms as a valuable tool in agriculture


The main objective is to disseminate new knowledge and technologies to agriculturists with regard to continued advances in agricultural microbiology. In addition:

  • To provide a sound background in microbial processes and their applications in agriculture.
  • Culturing and preservation of microorganisms
  • Simulation of microbial processes in the laboratory
  • Laboratory management
  • To produce experts capable of using novel technologies in current agricultural settings

To encourage and to lay framework in establishing organic farming systems in Sri Lanka.


A Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Science/Agriculture from a recognized university or any other equivalent qualification acceptable to the Senate of the University of Colombo. The candidates will be selected based on academic merits and an interview.


The Postgraduate Diploma consists of course work of 22 credits with a duration of one year (02 semesters).

The M.Sc. Program consists of course work (22C) and a Research Project (8C). The duration of the entire program is 02 years (4 semesters).


The taught modules given below are common for both the M. Sc. and the Postgraduate diploma programmes.

First Semester

  • General Microbiology
  • Plant Microbe Interactions
  • Biotechnology in Agricultural Microbiology
  • Biostatistics, Experimental Design and Computer Applications
  • Post-harvest Diseases
  • Practical Module I
  • Seminar

Second Semester

  • Soil Microbiology
  • Phytopathogenic Microorganisms
  • Plant Disease Management
  • Organic Agriculture
  • Practical Module II

Quality Assurance and Laboratory Management in Microbiology

Evaluation Criteria:

All the theory course modules shall be evaluated by written examinations and/or assignments. Practical modules shall be evaluated by separate practical assessments and/or assignments and/or continuous assessments. Seminars shall be evaluated by presentations. The research project shall be evaluated through a written dissertation, a presentation and a viva-voce examination.


General guidelines of the Faculty of Science will apply to the award of the M.Sc. and the Postgraduate Diploma in Agricultural Microbiology. All candidates are required to sit for the examinations of all the course modules in Part I.

Postgraduate Diploma

Candidates who obtain a GPA of not less than 2.50 for Part I are eligible for the award of the Diploma.

M.Sc. Degree

Those who obtain a GPA of not less than 3.00 for Part I of the Program will be allowed to proceed to Part II of the M.Sc. Program. Candidates, who reach a GPA of 3.00 or above, but opt not to do Part II of the Program, will be eligible for the award of the Postgraduate Diploma in Agricultural Microbiology. Candidates who fail to obtain a GPA of 3.00, but maintain a GPA of not less than 2.50 in Part I, will also be eligible for the award of the Postgraduate Diploma.


Further information regarding the program can be obtained from the Coordinator of the program:

Dr. (Mrs) C.M. Nanayakkara
Senior Lecturer,
Department of Plant Sciences,
University of Colombo ,
P.O. Box 1490 ,
Colombo 00300.
(Sri Lanka)
Tel: 94-(0)11-2585038
Fax: 94-(0)11-2503148
E-Mail :

Syllabi of the Course Modules

MAM 5101General Microbiology (15L; 1C)

Microbial world; Systematic position; Bacteriology; Mycology; Virology; Microbial Nutrition; Growth, physiology and biochemistry of microbes; Techniques in Microbiology; Microorganisms of extreme environments

MAM 5102Plant-Microbe Interactions (15L; 1C)

Significance of microbes in plant disease; Development of microbe interactions: factors controlling development, types of microbes; The microbial infection process, Resistance to microbial interactions; Mutual relationships between microorganisms and plants- Rhizosphere; Phyllosphere; Spermosphere; Root and stem nodules & BDNF; Endophytic microorganisms; Mycorrhizae; Associations between cyanobacteria and higher plants.

MAM 5103Biotechnology in Agricultural Microbiology (15L; 1C)

Molecular biology of gene transfer in Agrobacterium; Developments in plant transformation technology; Microbial genes for important agronomic traits, i.e. Bt toxin; Development of genetically engineered microbes for herbicide and pesticide degradation; Development of bio-fertilizers; Use of lux marked bacteria for soil quality monitoring

Methods and principles of plant cell and tissue culture; Micropropagation; Production of disease-free planting material; Virus detection and elimination in tissue cultured plants.

MAM 5104Biostatistics, Experimental Design and Computer Applications (30L; 2C)

Biostatistics (15L): Introduction to statistics; Description of data; Probability; Sampling distributions: random sampling, central limit theorem and sampling distributions for sample means; Confidence intervals for population mean and variance; Statistical inferences: point estimations, hypothesis testing; Inferences involving one population; Inferences involving two populations using independent and paired samples.

Experimental Design and Computer Applications in Statistics (15L) : Experiments and errors; Variables, interactions, treatments and treatment effects, errors and effects of errors, Error minimization, situations not requiring experimental designs; Experimental Designs; Treatment arrangements; Comparison tests; Correlation & Regression; Statistical significance of  results; Introduction to Cluster and Factor Analyses; Surveys and survey designs; Presentation of results;   scientific articles and presentations; Computer applications in statistics.

MAM 5105 Post-Harvest Diseases (30L; 2C)

Post-harvest diseases; Factors favouring development of post-harvest diseases; Disease management strategies; Detection and identification of post-harvest microbial pathogens; Disease development and symptom expression; Factors influencing disease development in storage; Principles and practices of post-harvest disease management; Chemical, physical, preventive and integrated methods; Genetic resistance of host plants for disease management; Post-harvest technology; Harvesting of produce; Preparation/Treatment of produce; Packing house preparation; Packaging and transport of produce; Mycotoxin management

MAM 5106 Practical Module I (120P; 4C)

Practicals of the course modules MAM 5101 (General Microbiology), MAM 5102 (Plant Microbe Interactions), MAM 5103 (Biotechnology in Agricultural Microbiology), MAM 5104 (Biostatistics, Experimental Design and Computer Applications) and MAM 5105 Post-Harvest Diseases are included.

MAM 5108 Seminar(30L; 1C)

On selected topics.

MAM 5201Soil Microbiology (15L; 1C)

Soil formation; Soil components; Soil as a habitat for microorganisms: Nutrient sources; Oligotrophy, Biofilms; Quorum sensing; Ecological and nutritional classification; Factors affecting the growth of soil microorganisms; Soil organic matter: organic matter as food for microorganisms, fresh organic matter, r and K strategists, mineralization; Nutrient cycling; significance of nutrient cycling in agriculture; Techniques in soil microbiology; Bioremediation

MAM 5206 Phytopathogenic Microorganisms (15L; 1C)

Study of microorganisms that cause plant diseases-ability to infect, penetrate, colonize and cause symptoms: Techniques in isolation and identification: Brief overview of diseases of economically important crop plants

MAM 5207 Plant Disease Management (15L 1C)

Methods of plant disease management; Theories and effectiveness of their applications based on epidemiological principles; Methods including the use of agricultural practices, legislation, chemical and biological practices; Integrated disease management

MAM 5204 Organic Agriculture (30L; 2C)

Organic Farming: Soil organic matter and organic material in crop production: Decomposition of organic material in soil: Manure: compost, green manure; Biofertilizers: development and the concept, bacterial fertilizers, fungal fertilizers, blue green algae, and use of Azolla; Role of mycorrhizae in organic agriculture; Mass production of biofertilizers: inoculum preparation, carrier material, shelf life; Problems and prospects of biofertilizers; Use of organic wastes as fertilizers; Non-chemical soil treatment for pest, disease and weed control: Intercropping and mixed cropping systems; Integrated pest and disease management programmes; Economic viability of organic farming.

MAM 5208 Quality Assurance and Laboratory Management in Microbiology (15L 1C)

General guidelines; Biological risks, hazard categories and laboratory safety requirements; Quality assurance in microbiology: Laboratory personnel, maintenance of laboratory equipments, laboratory house-keeping, media checks, culture maintenance, minimization of errors and calculation of uncertainty; Laboratory accreditation: Requirements as per ISO 17025; GILSP practices

MAM 5209 Practical Module II (90P; 3C)

Practical components of MAM 5201 (Soil Microbiology), MAM 5206 (Phytopathogenic microorganisms), and MAM 5204 (Organic Agriculture) are included in this module.

MAM 5301 Research Project (08 months; 9C)

A research project of eight months duration in agricultural microbiology. Evaluation is based on the dissertation and a viva-voce examination.