, Volume 194, Issue 1-2, pp 99-114

Natural endophytic association between Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii and rice roots and assessment of its potential to promote rice growth

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For over 7 centuries, production of rice (Oryza sativa L.) in Egypt has benefited from rotation with Egyptian berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum). The nitrogen supplied by this rotation replaces 25- 33% of the recommended rate of fertilizer-N application for rice production. This benefit to the rice cannot be explained solely by an increased availability of fixed N through mineralization of N- rich clover crop residues. Since rice normally supports a diverse microbial community of internal root colonists, we have examined the possibility that the clover symbiont, Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii colonizes rice roots endophytically in fields where these crops are rotated, and if so, whether this novel plant-microbe association benefits rice growth. MPN plant infection studies were performed on macerates of surface-sterilized rice roots inoculated on T. alexandrinum as the legume trap host. The results indicated that the root interior of rice grown in fields rotated with clover in the Nile Delta contained ∼106 clover-nodulating rhizobial endophytes g fresh weight of root. Plant tests plus microscopical, cultural, biochemical, and molecular structure studies indicated that the numerically dominant isolates of clover-nodulating rice endophytes represent 3 – 4 authentic strains of R. leguminosarum bv. trifolii that were Nod Fix on berseem clover. Pure cultures of selected strains were able to colonize the interior of rice roots grown under gnotobiotic conditions. These rice endophytes were reisolated from surface-sterilized roots and shown by molecular methods to be the same as the original inoculant strains, thus verifying Koch's postulates. Two endophytic strains of R. leguminosarum bv. trifolii significantly increased shoot and root growth of rice in growth chamber experiments, and grain yield plus agronomic fertilizer N-use efficiency of Giza-175 hybrid rice in a field inoculation experiment conducted in the Nile Delta. Thus, fields where rice has been grown in rotation with clover since antiquity contain Fix strains of R. leguminosarum bv. trifolii that naturally colonize the rice root interior, and these true rhizobial endophytes have the potential to promote rice growth and productivity under laboratory and field conditions.