Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 27, Number 4, November-December 2007
Page(s) 331 - 336
Published online 18 December 2007
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 27 (2007) 331-336
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2007024

Rhizobium gallicum as an efficient symbiont for bean cultivation

Bacem Mnasria, Fatma Tajinib, Mustapha Trabelsib, Mohamed Elarbi Aouania and Ridha Mhamdia

a  Laboratoire Intéractions Légumineuses-Microorganismes, Centre de Biotechnologie de Borj-Cédria, BP 901, Hammam-Lif 2050, Tunisia
b  École Supérieure d'Agriculture de Mateur, Bizerte, Tunisia

(Accepted 27 April 2007; published online 18 December 2007)

Abstract - Rhizobia are soil bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen in symbiosis with legumes in specialized organs called nodules. The legumes thus acquire the autonomy to grow in nitrogen-deficient soils. When nitrogen fixation by indigenous rhizobia is limited, field inoculation with efficient and competitive strains is an economically feasible way to increase production. When the inoculant is made from native strains of rhizobia the success of inoculation should be increased, since local strains are better adapted than commercial inoculants. Here, a Rhizobium gallicum strain, 8a3, previously selected for its competitiveness and symbiotic effectiveness with common bean under laboratory conditions, was tested in field trials in Tunisia. The experiments were conducted in six fields using three common bean cultivars. The majority of the fields showed a low density of the native rhizobia and inefficient nodulation by Sinorhizobium meliloti, a known symbiont of Medicago. Our results show that inoculation with R. gallicum strain 8a3 induced an increase in nodule numbers accompanied by a more than twofold increase in shoot dry yield. Monitoring of the nodulation occupancy through the fingerprinting of the repetitive extragenic palindromic sequences (REP-PCR) showed that strain 8a3 was competitive even in the soil showing a high population density of indigenous R. gallicum, and occupied more than 40% of the nodules. Moreover, in vitro antibiosis assays indicated that strain 8a3 produces antimicrobial activity on agar medium against indigenous common bean rhizobia, including the inefficient strains of S. meliloti. These results point out the benefits that could be achieved by selecting efficient and competitive strains among natural populations of rhizobia.

Key words: competitiveness / N2 fixation / Phaseolus vulgaris / Rhizobium gallicum

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2007