Morphological and Biochemical Characterization of Soybean Nodulating Rhizobia Indigenous to Zambia

  •  Rachael Kapembwa    
  •  Alice Mweetwa    
  •  Munsanda Ngulube    
  •  Jones Yengwe    
  •  Jones Yengwe    


Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] is known for nitrogen fixation by rhizobia present in the soil with which it establishes an efficient symbiosis. In Zambia, current rhizobial inoculants used in soybeans production are based on non-indigenous strains; this creates a need to isolate local strains that can be used for the development of local inoculants for soybeans in Zambian soils. This paper reports the isolation and characterization of rhizobial isolates from virgin and cultivated soils of the three agro-ecological regions of Zambia. Rhizobia were isolated using the Trap Method and characterized using selected morphological and biochemical markers. A total of 61 isolates were isolated on Yeast Extract Mannitol (YEM) agar medium. Isolates varied in colony form, color, margin and texture. From the 61 isolates from the three regions, 87 % were circular, 8 % irregular and 5 % punctuate in form with 100 % convex elevation. The isolates had 88% entire, 10% undulate and 2 % lobate colony margins with different colors – 56 % cream, 24 % white, 11 % yellow, 5 % transparent and 3 % pink. Transparent colonies were peculiar to Region I and III while pink colonies were peculiar to Region III. All isolates produced mucous, were gram negative and rod shaped, a characteristic of rhizobial cells. None of the isolates could tolerate extremes of pH (4 and 9) in growth medium but grew well at pH 6.8. All isolates utilized glucose as a source of carbon. Based on the Bromothymol Blue (BTB) assay, 59 isolates were fast growing while two isolates from cultivated soils of region II were slow growing. The fast growing 59 isolates showed an acidic reaction changing the medium from green to yellow, while the others showed an alkaline reaction. Based on the results, the 59 fast-growers could be Ensifer fredii or/and Rhizobium tropici rather than Bradyrhizobium. However, further tests to confirm these findings using ketolactose, genetic characterization and inclusion of reference strains, are still needed and are being recommended here.

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