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BMC Microbiol. 2010 Mar 23;10:89. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-10-89.

Symbiotic functioning and bradyrhizobial biodiversity of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) in Africa.

Author information

1
Department of Biotechnology, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cowpea is the most important food grain legume in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, no study has so far assessed rhizobial biodiversity and/or nodule functioning in relation to strain IGS types at the continent level. In this study, 9 cowpea genotypes were planted in field experiments in Botswana, South Africa and Ghana with the aim of i) trapping indigenous cowpea root-nodule bacteria (cowpea "rhizobia") in the 3 countries for isolation, molecular characterisation using PCR-RFLP analysis, and sequencing of the 16S - 23S rDNA IGS gene, ii) quantifying N-fixed in the cowpea genotypes using the 15N natural abundance technique, and iii) relating the levels of nodule functioning (i.e. N-fixed) to the IGS types found inside nodules.

RESULTS:

Field measurements of N2 fixation revealed significant differences in plant growth, delta15N values, %Ndfa and amounts of N-fixed between and among the 9 cowpea genotypes in Ghana and South Africa. Following DNA analysis of 270 nodules from the 9 genotypes, 18 strain IGS types were found. Relating nodule function to the 18 IGS types revealed significant differences in IGS type N2-fixing efficiencies. Sequencing the 16S - 23S rDNA gene also revealed 4 clusters, with cluster 2 forming a distinct group that may be a new Bradyrhizobium species. Taken together, our data indicated greater biodiversity of cowpea bradyrhizobia in South Africa relative to Botswana and Ghana.

CONCLUSIONS:

We have shown that cowpea is strongly dependant on N2 fixation for its N nutrition in both South Africa and Ghana. Strain IGS type symbiotic efficiency was assessed for the first time in this study, and a positive correlation was discernible where there was sole nodule occupancy. The differences in IGS type diversity and symbiotic efficiency probably accounts for the genotype x environment interaction that makes it difficult to select superior genotypes for use across Africa. The root-nodule bacteria nodulating cowpea in this study all belonged to the genus Bradyrhizobium. Some strains from Southern Africa were phylogenetically very distinct, suggesting a new Bradyrhizobium species.

PMID:
20331875
PMCID:
PMC2858033
DOI:
10.1186/1471-2180-10-89
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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