Two Rhizobium strains (WU1001 and WU1008) were isolated from nodules of Acacia redolens growing in saline areas of south-west Australia, and two strains selected from the University of Western Australia's culture collection (WU429 isolated from A. saligna and WU433 from A. cyclops). The growth of each in buffered, yeast extract mannitol broth culture was largely unaffected by salt up to 300 mM NaCl. A slight increase in lag time occurred at concentrations of 120 mM NaCl and above, but cell number at the static phase was not affected. Each of the four Rhizobium strains tested accumulated Na+ but showed decreasing levels of sugar with increasing salt in the external medium. Amino acid levels also increased, in some cases by more than tenfold. However, the relative proportion of each remained fairly constant in the bacteria, irrespective of salt treatment. Only trace quantities of proline were detected and there was no increase in this amino acid with salt. Acidic amino acids (glutamate and aspartate) remained as a constant proportion.
Rhizobium strains WU429, WU1001 and WU1008 produced effective nodules on both A. cyclops and A. redolens grown in sand with up to 80 mM NaCl (added in nutrient solutions free of nitrogen). Strain WU433 was highly infective on both Acacia species tested at low salt concentrations (2–40 mM NaCl), but infection was sensitive to salt levels at 120 mM NaCl and above. Nodules formed with strain WU433 were, however, ineffective on both A. redolens and on A. cyclops and showed nil or negligible rates of acetylene reduction at all salt concentrations. Strains WU429, WU1001 and WU1008 in combination with a highly salt-tolerant provenance of A. redolens formed symbioses which did not vary significantly in nodule number and mass, specific nodule activity or total N content irrespective of salt level up to 160 mM NaCl. On a more salt sensitive provenance of A. redolens and on A. cyclops the infectivity and effectivity of the Rhizobium strains tested usually decreased as the external salt concentration increased. These data are interpreted to indicate that tolerance of the legume host was the most important factor determining the success of compatible Rhizobium strains in forming effective symbioses under conditions of high soil salinity.