Competition between effective and ineffective Rhizobium galegae strains nodulating Galega orientalis was examined on the basis of plant growth, nodulation, antibiotic resistance, and PCR results. In a preliminary experiment in Leonard's jars, ineffective R. galegae strains HAMBI 1207 and HAMBI 1209 competed in similar manners with the effective strain R. galegae HAMBI 1174. In a pot experiment, soil was inoculated with 0 to 10(5) HAMBI 1207 cells per g before G. orientalis was sown. Seeds of G. orientalis were surface inoculated with 2 x 10(4) and 2 x 10(5) cells of HAMBI 1174 per seed (which represent half and fivefold the commercially recommended amount of inoculant, respectively). Plant yield and nodulation by the effective strain were significantly reduced, with as few as 10(2) ineffective rhizobia per g of soil, and the inoculation response was not improved by the 10-fold greater dose of the inoculant. Bacteria occupying the nodules were identified by antibiotic resistance and PCR with primers specific for R. galegae HAMBI 1174, R. galegae, and genes coding for bacterial 16S rRNA (bacterial 16S rDNA). Sixty-two large nodules examined were occupied by the effective strain HAMBI 1174, as proven by antibiotic resistance and amplification of the strain-specific fragment. From 20 small nodules, only the species-specific fragment could be amplified, and isolated bacteria had the same antibiotic resistance and 16S PCR restriction pattern as strain HAMBI 1207. PCR with our strain-specific and species-specific primers provides a powerful tool for strain identification of R. galegae directly from nodules without genetic modification of the bacteria
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