Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) resulting from symbiosis between legumes and rhizobia helps improve soil N fertility. Inoculated soils with specific strains of rhizobia may increase potential BNF in legumes, but the efficacy of these rhizobia in promoting BNF may be limited by competition from resident rhizobia already present in soils. We evaluated the ability of four strains to nodulate and increase BNF in Vicia villosa (hairy vetch) as individual and combined inoculants in a laboratory experiment. Plants were inoculated with a single rhizobia strain or equal ratios of 2–4 strains and grown under controlled conditions. After 46 d, entire plant shoots were harvested and analyzed for biomass, N content, nodule number, and nodule mass. Nodule occupancy was assessed using DNA fingerprinting of characteristic rhizobia genes. Negative-N and positive-N control plants averaged 6.3 and 83.2 mg total shoot N, respectively. Average total shoot N of inoculated vetch treatments was between that of uninoculated control treatments. Nodule number, total nodule mass, and BNF efficiency (total shoot N mass per total nodule mass) did not significantly differ between individual strains. Neither BNF efficiency nor nodule number were indicative of competitive ability for nodule occupancy. The rhizobia did not display any consistent synergistic or antagonistic effect on BNF when combined in inoculants and nodule occupancy did not favor any specific strain. Because vetch inoculated with local Rlv strains produced similar amounts of N as uninoculated plants fertilized with N, our work suggests that rhizobia sourced from local soils may produce sufficient BNF with vetch.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding was provided by the USDA NIFA Organic Transitions Program ( 2010-51106-21872 ) and the Dean's Graduate Research Assistantship from North Carolina State University . This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture , Hatch projects NC02440 and NC02713 .
- Hairy vetch
- Nitrogen fixation
- Root nodule
- Vicia villosa