The abandoned “Monte-Fresco” rock phosphate mine in Táchira, Venezuela, was sampled to study the biodiversity of phosphate-solubilizing microorganisms (PSM). Rhizosphere and bulk soils were sampled from colonizer plant species growing at a mined site where pH and soluble P were higher than the values found at a near by unmined and shrubby soil.
Counting and isolating of PSM choosing strains showing high solubilization halos in a solid minimal medium with hydroxyapatite as phosphate source were evaluated using ammonia or nitrate as nitrogen sources and dextrose, sucrose, and mannitol as carbohydrate sources.
A larger number of PSM were found in the rhizospheric than in the bulk soil. Six fungal strains belonging to the genus Penicillium and with high hydroxyapatite dissolution capacities were isolated from bulk soil of colonizer plants. Five of these strains had similar phenotypes to Penicillium rugulosum IR-94MF1 but they solubilized hydroxyapatite at different degrees with both nitrogen sources. From 15 strains of Gram-negative bacteria isolated from the rhizosphere of colonizer plants, 5 were identified as diazotrophic free-living encapsulated Azotobacter species able to use ammonium and/or nitrate to dissolve hydroxyapatite with glucose, sucrose and/or mannitol. Different nitrogen and carbohydrate sources are parameters to be considered to further characterize the diversity of PSM.
rock phosphate hydroxyapatite solubilization biodiversity rhizosphere Penicillium sp. Azotobacter sp.
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All authors are grateful to Douglas Torrelles for his technical assistance in the laboratory and to Dr. Hani Antoun for the critical revision of the manuscript. This research was supported by the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira (UNET) of Venezuela project 02-001-2001.
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