SNL Crop Protection

Testing of crop protection technologies and resistance of algae to deleterious species at laboratory and pilot pond scale at the Sandia Crash Lab.


The Sandia National Laboratories carries out crashes on demand under biocontained, climate-controlled systems at laboratory to 1000L scales. Resistance to grazers and other deleterious species is initially carried out in shaker flasks at laboratory scale designed to control other parameters and focus on the innate ability of the algal strain to resist grazing.  Laboratory results can be confirmed in environmental photobioreactors and in 1000L raceways under conditions that approximate those of the outdoor test bed at AzCATI.  Data from these assays is compiled and used to determine the innate resilience of algae strains to deleterious species.


The SNL Crash Lab consists of 3 X 1000L raceways illuminated with a programmable LED array capable of simulating outdoor light conditions.  These ponds have been fitted with a heating and cooling system designed to achieve the diurnal temperature cycles observed at outdoor algal test beds such as AzCATI.   There are current plans to supplement these 1000L raceway ponds with 6 X 100L raceways with similar illumination and temperature systems.  All  ponds are indoors and are thus biocontained and capable of cultivation of the full range of algae species including genetically modified strains along with the full range of algal grazers, parasites, and pathogens. 

The SNL Crash Lab is also used for the testing and evaluation of technologies and growth strategies designed to enhance crop protection. Our ability to challenge algal cultures with a wide range of deleterious species under realistic growth conditions allows for implementation of time efficient testing protocols. 


Figure 1      SNL 1000L indoor ponds

Figure 2

Figure 2    Typical Lab scale grazer resilience assay. Bp: Brachionus plicitalis, Br: Brachionus rotundiformis, Oxy: Oryrrhis marina

Results of a typical lab scale grazer resilience test.

In this example the DISCOVR strains, Chlorella sp 4-C12 and Microchloropsis salina CCMP 1776 were tested at lab scale against a panel of grazers at various concentrations.    The level of grazer resilience was determined by comparing the relative growth rates of the algae in the presence and absence of grazers.  All assays are carried out under nutrient replete conditions and standard temperature and illumination in order to deconvolute the effects of growth conditions from the innate resilience of the algae to the grazer.  The most promising strains, those showing the highest level of resilience to the broadest number of grazers, are then tested at the 1000L scale in the indoor testbed under conditions that replicate outdoor cultivation. 

Similar sorts of analyses can be carried out to determine algal resistance to pathogens, parasites, and other deleterious species.


Crash testing at Sandia National Laboratories allows for an objective comparison of DISCOVR strains in terms of their resilience to deleterious species.   The fact that the facilities are under biocontainment and climate control allows for the crop protection technologies and to be tested against a range of deleterious species under realistic growth conditions.


Todd W. Lane Sandia National Laboratories -


crop protection, grazers, pond crashes, raceway ponds, biocontainment