Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp) hosts several widespread bradyrhizobial root nodule symbionts across contrasting agro-ecological production areas in Kenya
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SubjectBradyrhizobium distribution; Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L Walp); MALDI-TOF MS; Agro-ecology; Area 07; AGR/02; AGR/16; Area 05
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) is an important African food legume suitable for dry regions. It is the main legume in two contrasting agro-ecological regions of Kenya as an important component of crop rotations because of its relative tolerance to unpredictable drought events. This study was carried out in an effort to establish a collection of bacterial root nodule symbionts and determine their relationship to physicochemical soil parameters as well as any geographical distributional patterns. Bradyrhizobium spp. were found to be widespread in this study and several different types could be identified at each site. Unique but rare symbionts were recovered from the nodules of plants sampled in a drier in-land region, where there were also overall more different bradyrhizobia found. Plants raised in soil from uncultivated sites with a natural vegetation cover tended to also associate with more different bradyrizobia. The occurrence and abundance of different bradyrhizobia correlated with differences in soil texture and pH, but did neither with the agro-ecological origin, nor the origin from cultivated (n = 15) or uncultivated (n = 5) sites. The analytical method, protein profiling of isolated strains by Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS), provided higher resolution than 16S rRNA gene sequencing and was applied in this study for the first time to isolates recovered directly from field-collected cowpea root nodules. The method thus seems suitable for screening isolate collections on the presence of different groups, which, provided an appropriate reference database, can also be assigned to known species.
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