Identification of yeast strains isolated from marcha in Sikkim, a microbial starter for amylolytic fermentation.
Marcha or murcha is a traditional amylolytic starter used to produce sweet-sour alcoholic drinks, commonly called jaanr in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet (China). The aim of this study was to examine the microflora of marcha collected from Sikkim in India, focusing on yeast flora and their roles. Twenty yeast strains were isolated from six samples of marcha and identified by genetic and phenotypic methods. They were first classified into four groups (Group I, II, III, and IV) based on physiological features using an API test. Phylogenetic, morphological, and physiological characterization identified the isolates as Saccharomyces bayanus (Group I); Candida glabrata (Group II); Pichia anomala (Group III); and Saccharomycopsis fibuligera, Saccharomycopsis capsularis, and Pichia burtonii (Group IV). Among them, the Group I, II, and III strains produced ethanol. The isolates of Group IV had high amylolytic activity. Because all marcha samples tested contained both starch degraders and ethanol producers, it was hypothesized that all four groups of yeast (Group I, II, III, and IV) contribute to starch-based alcohol fermentation.