Characterization of rhizobial isolates nodulating Millettia pinnata in India


Correspondence: Abdul Rasul, Division of Crop Sciences, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Santoshnagar, Hyderabad 500059, India. Tel.: +91 9949661943; fax: +91 4024531802; e-mail:


Millettia pinnata (Synonym Pongamia pinnata) is a viable source of oil for the mushrooming biofuel industry, source for agroforestry, urban landscaping, and the bio-amelioration of degraded lands. It also helps in maintaining soil fertility through symbiotic nitrogen fixation. However, not much work is reported on classification and characterization of the rhizobia associated with this plant. In the present study, an attempt was made to isolate rhizobial strains nodulating Millettia from soils collected from southern regions of India. The isolates were characterized using numerical taxonomy, 16S rRNA gene sequencing, and cross nodulation ability. The results showed high phenotypic and genetic diversity among the rhizobia symbiotic with Millattia pinnata. The isolates formed five clusters at similarity level of 0.82 based on the results of numerical taxonomy. Results on 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis revealed that most microsymbionts of M. pinnata belonged to Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium, which are closely related to Rhizobium sp., B. elkanii and B. yuanmingense. Among these isolates, some isolates could grow in a pH range of 4.0–10.0, some could tolerate a high salt concentration (3% NaCl) and could grow at a maximum temperature between 35 and 45 °C. M. pinnata formed nodules with diverse rhizobia in Indian soils. These results offered the first systematic information about the microsymbionts of M. pinnata grown in the soils from southern part of India.