Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Nodulation and performance of exotic and native legumes in Australian soils

María A. Pérez-Fernández and Byron B. Lamont

Australian Journal of Botany 51(5) 543 - 553
Published: 07 October 2003


Six Spanish legumes, Cytisus balansae, C. multiflorus, C. scoparius, C. striatus, Genista hystrix and Retama sphaerocarpa, were able to form effective nodules when grown in six south-western Australian soils. Soils and nodules were collected from beneath natural stands of six native Australian legumes, Jacksonia floribunda, Gompholobium tomentosum, Bossiaea aquifolium, Daviesia horrida, Gastrolobium spinosum and Templetonia retusa. Four combinations of soils and bacterial treatments were used as the soil treatments: sterile soil (S), sterile inoculated soils (SI), non-treated soil (N) and non-treated inoculated soils (NI). Seedlings of the Australian species were inoculated with rhizobia cultured from nodules of the same species, while seedlings of the Spanish species were inoculated with cultures from each of the Australian species. All Australian rhizobia infected all the Spanish species, suggesting a high degree of 'promiscuity' among the bacteria and plant species. The results from comparing six Spanish and six Australian species according to their biomass and total nitrogen in the presence (NI) or absence (S) of rhizobia showed that all species benefitted from nodulation (1.02–12.94 times), with R.¬†sphaerocarpa and C. striatus benefiting more than the native species. Inoculation (SI and NI) was just as effective as, or more effective than the non-treated soil (i.e. non-sterile) in inducing nodules. Nodules formed on the Spanish legumes were just as efficient at fixing N2 as were those formed on the Australian legumes. Inoculation was less effective than non-treated soil at increasing biomass but just as effective as the soil at increasing nitrogen content. Promiscuity in the legume–bacteria symbiosis should increase the ability of legumes to spread into new habitats throughout the world.

© CSIRO 2003

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