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Journal of Biotechnology
Vol. 91 (2-3), 2017, Pages: 143–153

Rhizobia from wild legumes: diversity, taxonomy, ecology, nitrogen fixation and biotechnology

Hamdi Hussein Zahran

Botany Department, Faculty of Science, Beni-Suef 62511, Egypt.


Wild legumes (herb or tree) are widely distributed in arid regions and actively contribute to soil fertility in these environments. The N2-fixing activity and tolerance to drastic conditions may be higher in wild legumes than in crop legumes. The wild legumes in arid zones harbor diverse and promiscuous rhizobia in their root-nodules. Specificity existed only in few rhizobia from wild legumes, however, the majority of them are with wide host range. Based on phenotypic characteristics and molecular techniques (protein profiles, polysaccharides, plasmids, DNA–DNA hybridization, 16SrRNA, etc.), the root-nodule bacteria that was isolated from wild legumes had been classified into four genera (Rhizobium, Bradyrhizobium, Mesorhizobium and Sinorhizobium). The rhizobia of wild legumes in arid zones, exhibit higher tolerance to the prevailing adverse conditions, e.g. salt stress, elevated temperatures and desiccation. These rhizobia may be used to inoculate wild, as well as, crop legumes, cultivated in reclaimed desert lands. Recent reports indicated that the wild-legume rhizobia formed successful symbioses with some grain legumes. Moreover, intercropping of some N2-fixing tree legumes (e.g. Lablab,LeucaenaSesbania, etc.) to pasture grasses improved biomass yield and herb quality. In recent years, the rhizobia of wild legumes turn the attention of biotechnologists. These bacteria may have specific traits that can be transferred to other rhizobia through genetic engineering tools or used to produce industrially important compounds. Therefore, these bacteria are very important from both economic and environmental points of view.

Keywords: Biotechnology; Diversity; Ecology; N2 fixation; Rhizobium; Wild legumes.

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