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Environ Microbiol. 2008 Nov;10(11):2922-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01762.x.

Influence of different Sinorhizobium meliloti inocula on abundance of genes involved in nitrogen transformations in the rhizosphere of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.).

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  • 1Department of Terrestrial Ecogenetics, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Institute of Soil Ecology, Ingolstädter, Neuherberg, Germany.


Inoculation of leguminous seeds with selected rhizobial strains is practised in agriculture to ameliorate the plant yield by enhanced root nodulation and nitrogen uptake of the plant. However, effective symbiosis between legumes and rhizobia does not only depend on the capacity of nitrogen fixation but also on the entire nitrogen turnover in the rhizosphere. We investigated the influence of seed inoculation with two indigenous Sinorhizobium meliloti strains exhibiting different efficiency concerning plant growth promotion on nitrogen turnover processes in the rhizosphere during the growth of alfalfa. Quantification of six target genes (bacterial amoA, nirK, nirS, nosZ, nifH and archaeal amoA) within the nitrogen cycle was performed in rhizosphere samples before nodule formation, at bud development and at the late flowering stage. The results clearly demonstrated that effectiveness of rhizobial inocula is related to abundance of nifH genes in the late flowering phase of alfalfa. Moreover, other genes involved in nitrogen turnover had been affected by the inocula, e.g. higher numbers of amoA copies were observed during flowering when the more effective strain had been inoculated. However, the respective gene abundances differed overall to a greater extent between the three plant development stages than between the inoculation variants.

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